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Major Shift in HIV Strategy

July 14, 2010

Advocates are hopeful that the National HIV/AIDS Strategy's focus on coordinating local, state, and federal responses to the epidemic will clarify resources available to patients and streamline treatment and counseling services. President Barack Obama unveiled the much-anticipated plan Tuesday at the White House.

"For the Bay Area and San Francisco, the plan allows a more coordinated effort between communities and federal agencies," said Jason Riggs, deputy director of Stop AIDS Project in San Francisco.

Critics noted that 2,200 Americans were on waiting lists for subsidized AIDS treatment as of early July. Though the administration last week pledged $25 million to help these patients, waiting lists are a disincentive for testing, said Michael Weinstein, president of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

Thirty million dollars appropriated under the new health care reform law will be used to help implement the strategy, said Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services. While additional monetary pledges were not offered, existing HIV/AIDS funds will be redirected to meet the national objectives.

The report tasks several federal agencies, including CDC, with re-evaluating prevention programs in high-risk communities. The strategy marks the first time HIV/AIDS' disproportionate effect on black men and men who have sex with men has been acknowledged at the national policy level. More than half of all HIV infections in the United States were acquired through male-to-male sex, and African Americans are seven times as likely to become infected as other races.

"From the very early days of the epidemic, the fear that some people will stop caring about AIDS if it seems to happen mostly to people who are in their eyes 'not like them' has been there," said Keith Humphreys, a Stanford Medical School professor. "I think the country has come a long way since the epidemic started, in terms of compassion and inclusiveness."

Social media campaigns will be used to increase public awareness about HIV and the importance of screening, the report states.

"We have a phrase that knowing your HIV status should be as common as knowing your home address," said Barbara Kimport, interim CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

For more information, visit the White House Office of National AIDS Policy:

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Excerpted from:
San Francisco Chronicle
07.14.2010; Andrew Aylward

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