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Secretary Sebelius Asks HHS to Sustain NHAS Momentum

By Ronald Valdiserri, M.D., M.P.H.

February 11, 2011

Dr. Ronald Valdiserri.

Dr. Ronald Valdiserri.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius recently sent an important communication to the Department's leadership regarding HHS-wide efforts to implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS). The message, sent in late January, reiterated that the implementation of the NHAS is a priority for HHS. Secretary Sebelius reminded the heads of her operating divisions and staff divisions that even prior to the release of the NHAS, the HHS Strategic Plan FY2010-2015 had committed the Department to "prevent(ing) the spread of HIV infection…increase(ing) efforts to make people aware of their status…and enable(ing) them to access HIV care and treatment using innovative, culturally appropriate means."

Secretary Sebelius praised the Department's long-standing efforts in support of HIV prevention, care, treatment, and research, but signaled the need for enhanced intra-departmental coordination and collaboration in order to achieve the ambitious goals of the NHAS. Specifically, she identified four actions that HHS leadership should undertake in order to advance the implementation of the NHAS across HHS:

Don't forget, the NHAS Federal Implementation Plan asks us to consider the following three questions as we evaluate the implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (see page 31, Evaluating the National HIV/AIDS Strategy):

As we prepare for the public release later this month of the HHS Operational Plan to implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, we would do well to follow Secretary Sebelius' example of asking ourselves, our colleagues, and the communities we serve these same three questions—remembering that the answers, while not easy to come-up with, will move us closer to achieving the vision of the NHAS:

The United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare and when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination.

Ronald Valdiserri, M.D., M.P.H. is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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