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National HIV/AIDS Strategy Tiptoes Forward

January 27, 2011

Federal agencies present how they'll implement Obama's HIV strategy.

Federal agencies present how they'll implement Obama's HIV strategy.

The implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy moved a tiny step forward Thursday when federal agencies presented oral summaries of how they plan to carry out the strategy -- the first of its kind in the nation.

Problem is, several agencies that will play crucial roles in making the strategy a success did not present plans. Among those who did not address the National HIV/AIDS Strategy were the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Education, the Department of Labor, the Health Services and Resources Administration, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the National Institutes of Health.

Agency representatives presented the plans in Washington, D.C., to the 25 members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, the group charged with advising the federal government on AIDS policy. The Office of National AIDS Policy won't release a document with the plans until mid-February (we'll publish it here). But today's meeting was open to the public, and Housing Works' Vice President of National Advocacy and Organizing Christine Campbell offered a few notes.

"I was disappointed that a whole group of agencies were conspicuously absent from today's meeting. I was most interested to hear from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but its presentation was relatively brief. It did not say how the department will use housing as a structural intervention for the prevention of HIV/AIDS.

The presentation by Veterans' Affairs was perhaps the most comprehensive, and the representative addressed how the VA could use routine testing to reduce stigma and therefore the spread of HIV.

I liked that the Department of Justice said it plans to reframe the issue of HIV/AIDS as a human rights issue. However, the DOJ still does not seem to see the risk of infection while incarcerated -- and didn't address this in its presentation.

The AIDS Drug Assistance Program funding crisis was mentioned in the presentations, but no one identified a solution."

The aim of the strategy is to one day create a country in which HIV infections are rare. When the president released the plan in July, however, Housing Works criticized the specific targets set in the plan, calling them insufficiently aggressive if Obama's plan is to truly make HIV a rarity. The strategy, for example, proposes reducing new HIV infections by just 25 percent in five years -- meaning the U.S. will have 42,000 new infections in 2015.

In today's presentation, agencies were supposed to present initial implementation plans. But Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of the AIDS Institute in Washington, D.C., said many agency reps simply spoke about what they already do to fight HIV/AIDS.

He also noted the absence of several critical agencies.

"It's really initial steps [we're hearing], and I think now we have to see the detail," he said. "[But] I don't know know why those agencies weren't there. If you're looking at achieving these goals, we need these agencies."

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This article was provided by Housing Works. It is a part of the publication Housing Works AIDS Issues Update. Visit Housing Works' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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