Illinois: Activists Mixed on AIDS Plan
July 15, 2010
In the Chicago area, AIDS activists are cautiously optimistic about the National HIV/AIDS Strategy announced Tuesday by President Barack Obama. Policymakers and others involved with HIV/AIDS see the strategy as both a roadmap and potential catalyst. However, service agencies have been struggling to preserve prevention and treatment programs, and some activists are critical of the plan's lack of new funding.
"The strategy itself won't accomplish any game-changing outcomes," said David Munar, vice president of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. "But we hope that because the president is standing up and advancing the plan, it can be a tool to revitalize the energy around the fight against HIV/AIDS."
The strategy's top three objectives are cutting annual new HIV infections by 25 percent; improving HIV/AIDS care access and outcomes; and reducing disease-related disparities.
Advocates for years have been calling for federal action in those areas, said Beau Gratzer, COO of the Howard Brown Health Center. But a lack of funding could end up pitting agencies against each other, he said.
"The goals are relatively ambitious and this is really a great framework for us to use, but the operational plan for how it will actually be rolled out is something we still need to see in order to determine if it is realistic," Gratzer said. "It is easy to say we will reduce new infections, but it is hard to see how to do that without new funding resources."
General funding for HIV/AIDS programs in Illinois has declined 50 percent since last year, said state officials. Chicago is experiencing gaps in housing, testing, outreach for high-risk groups, and counseling, according to activists. The state AIDS Drug Assistance Program is threatened by cuts at the state level. Without additional money, new ADAP applicants could be put on a waiting list.
For more information, visit the White House Office of National AIDS Policy: www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/onap.
07.14.2010; Dahleen Glanton
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