Well Implemented, President Obama's National HIV/AIDS Strategy Is Precisely What Is Needed to Further Control HIV/AIDS
The document does not discuss financing of new directions in the fight against HIV at great length, a point that many HIV advocates have noted with concern. It correctly argues for the more effective use of existing funding, particularly for HIV prevention programs. It notes that recently adopted national health care reform will provide the means by which most HIV-positive Americans will be able to access primary medical care and treatment. And it asserts that the Ryan White Program, which currently provides over $2 billion in Federal funding for care, treatment and social services programs for people with HIV, needs to extended and reconfigured to support this new direction in the fight against HIV/AIDS. It does not, however, commit to whether all of those $2 billion should be preserved.
Project Inform agrees with all of these points regarding financing of HIV/AIDS services. But we believe that all of the $2 billion appropriated to the Ryan White Program -- and perhaps more -- will need to be appropriated to fill in for gaps in health care reform and assure the level of social services and linkage of HIV-positive people to care and treatment that are called for in the Strategy. We also believe that HIV research, particularly cure-related research at the National Institutes of Health, and HIV prevention programs of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), will need funding increases in coming years. And we are alarmed that the Obama administration and the Congress are currently placing insufficient funding into the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) as a bridge to health care reform, which is to be fully implemented in 2014.
An otherwise visionary and thorough document, the Strategy's main weakness appears to be in the area of expanded HIV testing. This is particularly disappointing in that the fundamental goal of increasing participation in care and treatment is predicated on greater awareness of HIV status. The CDC has previously been cited as making some progress on its goal of assuring that all Americans aged 13 to 64 know their HIV status, but inadequate progress. And while the Strategy does encourage greater cooperation from major national medical groups in assuring that medical providers routinely offer testing to their patients, it does little else to make clear how the nation will increase the percentage of HIV-positive Americans who know their serostatus. Project Inform will press to assure that the detailed implementation plan that is to follow the release of the Strategy by December 13, 2010 corrects this problem.
This is an extremely encouraging and opportune time in the domestic fight against HIV and AIDS. The National HIV/AIDS Strategy sets the proper course for improving the health of HIV-positive individuals, reducing new HIV infections, and reducing great disparities in the HIV health now experienced by women and people of color. National health care reform will greatly help us to assure access to care and treatment for most, though not all people living with HIV. The current arsenal of HIV medications, while not perfect, is capable of greatly prolonging the length and quality of life of HIV-positive people when taken early in infection and preventing new infections. It is vital that the nation seize on this set of advances and fund them adequately in order to achieve the vision of President Obama's Strategy: that "The U.S. 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."
Project Inform is proud to have played a part in the development of the Strategy and will remain heavily engaged both in informing the details of its implementation and monitoring its results. We will regularly update our constituents about progress in this regard.
ADAP Advocacy Association Releases 2010 Congressional Scorecard; Legislative Gridlock Leads to Failing Grade for Entire Congress
This article was provided by Project Inform. It is a part of the publication Project Inform Perspective. Visit Project Inform's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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