Obama Unveils National HIV/AIDS Strategy
Earlier this week, President Obama unveiled plans to implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which seeks to make the United States "a place where new HIV infections are rare and when they do occur, every person ... will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination." Headed by the Office of National Aids Policy (ONAP), the three primary goals of the plan are to reduce HIV incidence, to increase access to care and optimize health outcomes, and to reduce HIV-related health disparities.
Though the United States has engaged in international efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, such as the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), this is the first plan of that magnitude targeted at domestic issues, according to the Huffington Post. The plan has been in the making for over a year, with ONAP leading efforts to hold public community discussions, collect website commentary, engage experts in the field at the White House, and reach out to specific affected communities, such as those living in rural areas.
The plan's goals include lowering the annual number of new infections by 25 percent and reducing the annual transmission rate by 30 percent by 2015. The plan also seeks to increase the number of people who have access to care, as well as how many people know about their own positive status. The NHAS calls for a specific focus on gay, female and minority populations, who are disproportionately affected by the disease. For instance, African American men make up 13 percent of the population, but make up nearly half of those living with HIV according to the Bay Area Reporter.
"This represents the work of thousands of individuals whose leadership and input over the last three years helped it take shape," Judith Auerbach of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation told the Bay Area Reporter.."Now it is up to all of us to ensure its full funding and implementation and hold our government accountable for progress."
However, some are criticizing the funding levels of the new plan. Though the NHAS has promised $25 million to AIDS Drug Assistance programs, critics are saying that number needs to be $125 million. Michael Weinstein, from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation said, "This strategy is a day late and a dollar short. Fifteen months in the making, and the White House learned what people in the field have known for years. There is no funding, no 'how to,' no real leadership," reported the Bay Area Reporter.
Despite the shortcomings of the plan, Obama has made clear that this is a cause he will remain dedicated to throughout his presidency. Acknowledging that the issue feeds on adversities such as poverty and gender discrimination, he asserts that those problems must also be quelled to beat the disease.
"Fighting HIV/AIDS in America and around the world will require more than just fighting the virus," he said during his speech. "It will require a broader effort to make life more just and equitable for the people who inhabit this Earth."
Media Resources: National HIV AIDS Strategy (pdf); Huffington Post 7/13/10; National HIV/AIDS strategy Implementation Plan (pdf); Bay Area Reporter 7/15/10