July 19, 2013
A new Continuum of Care initiative of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) and the re-launch of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus were the centerpieces of the third anniversary commemoration of the NHAS on July 15.
The "HIV Care Continuum Initiative," announced by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, aims to better implement the NHAS by directing federal agencies to prioritize the continuum of HIV care by using federal resources to increase HIV testing, services, and treatment, as well as to improve patient access to each of those areas. According to Secretary Sebelius, the need for the new initiative is based on research showing that enhancing access to treatment both ensures better health outcomes for people living with HIV and helps to prevent new infections.
The initiative also creates a working group that will coordinate federal efforts to improve outcomes across the HIV care continuum. The group will be co-chaired by the White House Office of National HIV/AIDS Policy and HHS's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health.
Sebelius also announced an $8-10 million per year, multi-year demonstration project to expand the capacity of community health centers, local health departments, and grantees to "better integrate HIV prevention and treatment across the continuum of care." The demonstration project will be the result of a collaborative effort from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). It will target areas with high numbers of racial and ethnic minorities, who are disproportionately affected by the epidemic, and communities with a substantial unmet need for comprehensive HIV services.
Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) announced the re-launch of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, co-chaired by her, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Jim McDermott (D-WA). More information about the caucus can be found here. Lee also noted a recent success in adding an amendment directing the Department of Justice to review the status of HIV in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
A panel of activists addressed several challenges to improving the HIV care continuum, including the need for improved surveillance, pervasive HIV stigma, and the shortage of clinical providers of HIV care.