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HHS Strategy Implementation Group Reviews Progress, Identifies Additional Opportunities

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

April 6, 2011

L-R: Dr. Valdiserri, Dr. Koh, Mr. Crowley, Mr. Millett.

L-R: Dr. Valdiserri, Dr. Koh, Mr. Crowley, Mr. Millett.

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) convened a meeting of its department-wide National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) Implementation Group. This was the first meeting of the group since the completion of the HHS NHAS Operational Plan and its public release in mid-February. During the meeting, representatives of operational divisions and staff offices discussed ongoing activities, shared updates about recent progress on activities detailed in the Department's Operational Plan, and identified opportunities for further collaboration.

Implementation Group chairman, Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health, thanked the participants for their continued leadership and reflected on the significant progress made by the Department in the nearly nine months since the White House released the Strategy. He observed that he has heard both excitement and enthusiasm from advocates and community members about the NHAS and the Department's progress to date. At the same time, though, advocates, stakeholders and leaders -- including the Secretary of HHS -- have high expectations for the Department's continued coordination and collaboration to achieve the Strategy's significant goals.

Mr. Jeffrey Crowley, Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, commended the group on its accomplishments to date and its continued momentum. He also discussed some of the significant elements (PDF 250KB) of the President's FY2012 Budget that support the implementation of the Strategy and have important implications for HHS. Finally, Mr. Crowley urged continued coordination and collaboration among agencies on several key activities including efforts to reduce grantee burden, sustain ongoing participation in the 12 Cities Project, and plan how to report on the first year of the nation's efforts to implement the Strategy.

Among the activities the group discussed were progress and opportunities in the 12 Cities Project as it continues to evolve. Representatives of key agencies shared brief overviews of recent activities in support of this HHS-wide project.

We also shared with the group updates on other NHAS implementation activities including the recent consultation with the LGBT community and on plans being developed by the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to engage faith communities in HIV awareness outreach, testing, and stigma reduction.

We all left the meeting with a deeper understanding of the range of Strategy implementation activities underway across the Department as well as with several new ideas for collaborative activities. Though we are all in frequent contact with one another on particular activities, these face-to-face discussions are important opportunities to pause and reflect on the larger picture as well as on our progress and next steps. The Implementation Group will continue to meet quarterly.

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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