May 8, 2008
On April 9, 2008, 42 leaders in the domestic response to HIV/AIDS met at the Ford Foundation in New York City to discuss development of a National AIDS Strategy (NAS) for the United States. Dana Van Gorder, Project Inform's Executive Director, participated in the meeting. The NAS effort was initiated by the AIDS Action Council, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Balm in Gilead, Black AIDS Institute, Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project, Gay Men's Health Crisis, and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
In the months leading up to the meeting, a Call to Action for a NAS had received the support of over 200 organizations and hundreds of individuals (www.nationalaidsstrategy.org). Two of the three leading Presidential candidates had pledged to develop an NAS if elected.
The Call to Action identifies the need for an outcomes-oriented NAS that is designed to bring national HIV incidence rates down, increase access to HIV-related care, and reduce HIV-related racial disparities. It urges development of a NAS that is coordinated across federal agencies and includes measurable goals and accountability mechanisms.
The meeting at the Ford Foundation was organized in order to broaden engagement in the NAS concept and to discuss how to move forward with the proposal. Attendees did not attempt to develop the NAS, but discussed potential goals for a NAS, elements needed to make a NAS successful, and next steps for advancing the concept.
Meeting attendees noted that the NAS effort should both lead to development of a Strategy that promotes a more effective and accountable federal response to HIV/AIDS, and also serves as an opportunity to bring needed attention to the domestic HIV epidemic. They acknowledged that several other initiatives and plans have been proposed to improve the domestic AIDS response, and that a NAS should be informed by and be complementary to these proposals.
There was general agreement that the NAS should be owned by the federal government (which would be responsible for reporting on progress towards NAS goals and coordinating the work of federal agencies), but that the AIDS community should help outline the framework for the Strategy and that multiple stakeholders should be engaged in NAS planning and implementation. Next steps include:
Project Inform believes deeply in the need for a meaningful national strategy to guide well-coordinated plans to increase the number of HIV-positive Americans who know of their HIV status; increase the number of people with HIV who receive care and treatment; eliminate disparities in clinical outcomes for HIV-positive women and people of color; assures access to HIV care and treatment programs for all HIV-positive Americans; and reduces to nearly zero the number of new HIV infections occurring annually in the US.
We also believe that, after 8 years of neglect by the Bush Administration, the development of a National AIDS Strategy can serve both as a much needed vehicle to remind the nation that a massive amount of work and resources are still needed to end the domestic epidemic, and as a stimulus to increased activism in support of a heightened response to the domestic epidemic.
For both of these reasons, Project Inform intends to remain at the table to help lead the development of the National AIDS Strategy. We will keep our constituents informed about this ongoing effort, and are eager to engage you to support it.