May 12, 2004
-- More than 20 nurses and physicians working in AIDS care across the country -- including representatives from the American Academy of HIV Medicine (AAHIVM), The AIDS Institute (TAI), HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) and International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care (IAPAC) -- took to Capitol Hill yesterday, May 11, for an advocacy effort known as "White Coat Day."
"Having HIV medical providers educate legislators has become critically important," says American Academy of HIV Medicine founder and CEO, R. Scott Hitt, M.D. "Those in Washington DC can only provide half of the necessary education to federal policy makers regarding the future of AIDS care. The other half must come from those on the front line, giving and receiving care -- who know first-hand the changes that need to be made." Medical providers came to DC to tell their personal stories, how the federal government's programs directly affect their clinics and communities.
An inaugural event, White Coat Day was designed to bring together nurses and physicians from across the nation for Congressional visits with key appropriators. The goal -- to discuss critical issues in the ongoing battle against HIV/AIDS, including frank conversations regarding:
According to Dr. Gene Copello, Executive Director of The AIDS Institute, "This about starting an ongoing dialogue and building relationships to ensure that the needs of nearly one million Americans living with HIV/AIDS are addressed." He continued, "It is a process of information, knowledge and experience exchange that must occur to ensure the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health of persons with AIDS."
In addition to discussions about funding for programs and services, participants in White Coat Day spoke with members of Congress about their concerns regarding: political challenges to NIH's peer review process; ideological challenges to grants exploring issues related to sexuality and human sexual behavior; prevention initiatives such as sexuality education in the school system; science-based and abstinence-only prevention messages; as well as the providers' unique perspective in reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act.
"We're excited about the opportunity to bring the voices and perspectives of front line medical providers for people living with HIV/AIDS to Congress so that policy and funding decisions about HIV/AIDS programs reflect the needs and concerns of HIV/AIDS patients and providers," explained Christine Lubinski, executive director of the Infectious Disease Society.
The American Academy of HIV Medicine is an independent organization of HIV Specialists and others dedicated to promoting excellence in HIV/AIDS care. Through advocacy and education, the Academy is committed to supporting health care providers in HIV medicine and to ensuring better care for those living with AIDS and HIV disease.
As the largest independent organization of HIV frontline providers, our 1,800 members provide direct care to more than 315,000 HIV patients. This is more than two thirds of the patients in active treatment for HIV disease. The Academy has a diverse membership composed of ID, IM, FP and GP specialists as well as NPs and PAs. Member distribution among these provider groups is proportionate to the specialty distribution of frontline providers nationwide. Nearly 50 percent of the Academy's members receive Ryan White CARE Act funding, with 18 percent of the Academy's members practicing in community clinics.