African Americans have access to modern HIV treatment, but far too many have not been tested and are not receiving medical care, according to speakers at the 2000 National Conference on African Americans and AIDS, February 24 and 25 in Washington, D.C.; racism, sexism, homophobia, stigma associated with HIV and AIDS, lack of trust in the healthcare system, and lack of access to healthcare, remain major barriers. The two-day conference, sponsored by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Bristol-Myers Squibb, was the second annual meeting on African Americans and AIDS, with talks by leading researchers, public health officials, and non-government activists.
- Long-term survivor Phill Wilson, who opened the meeting, later noted that 50% of the new AIDS cases among men who have sex with men are now men of color. "The tragedy is that this did not have to happen. Men of color were disproportionately impacted in 1989 when they were 30% of AIDS cases among men who have sex with men. The question now is what are we going to do at this time?" Wilson is a gay African American activist and founder of the African American AIDS Policy and Training Institute, http://www.AAAinstitute.org.
- U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala described the Clinton Administration strategy as three-fold: to put needed money into communities; to prevent the spread of HIV, and to eliminate barriers to care. "Too few African Americans are getting tested or getting access to care. The cost of treatment is high. The regimen of pills is difficult to follow. And prevention messages have not been targeted enough -- or become accepted enough -- in the African American community."
- Human-rights leader Jesse L. Jackson Sr. called for visible African Americans to model the importance of testing -- followed by his own public test at a local HIV clinic for African Americans.
- John G. Bartlett, M.D., from Johns Hopkins, discussed the government guidelines for HIV treatment, most recently updated January 29 (see New Guidelines for HIV Treatment; Resistance Testing Now Recommended, AIDS Treatment News #337, February 18, 2000). Dr. Bartlett also cited some of the long-term consequences of the HAART combinations, including elevated triglycerides and cholesterol levels, fat accumulation and fat wasting (lipodystrophy), insulin resistance or diabetes, and other disorders. He suggested that it is too soon to generalize about the benefits and risks of early HAART therapy.
- Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health, emphasized that while the guidelines are important, they do not mean that everyone must be treated -- and patients' rights to choose not to be treated should be respected. Dr. Fauci also noted that globally, 90% to 95% of people who need antiretroviral treatment will never get it. He referred the audience to http://www.hivatis.org for the latest updated version of the treatment guidelines.
- Robert C. Gallo, M.D., discussed the search for biological treatments for HIV infection, which could be nontoxic and inexpensive. His talk included beta chemokines, and also the role of tat in HIV infection and immune suppression. His group is developing a tat toxoid which might be useful in both treatment and/or vaccination against HIV.
Full audio and slide presentations should be available by April at the Johns Hopkins Web site, http://www.hopkins-aids.edu.
ISSN # 1052-4207
Copyright 2000 by John S. James. Permission granted for noncommercial reproduction, provided that our address and phone number are included if more than short quotations are used.
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