Obama Administration to Unveil National Strategy to Reduce HIV Infections

ABC News’ Karen Travers reports: The Obama administration plans to announce its national strategy Tuesday to reduce the annual number of HIV infections in the United States and improve health care for those currently living with HIV. Every year approximately 56,000 people in the United States become infected with HIV and there are currently more than 1.1 million Americans living with HIV. In a report released tonight, the White House outlines its plan to reduce the annual number of HIV infections by 25 percent with five years and increase the percentage (from 65 percent to 85 percent) of newly diagnosed patients who receive care within three months of their diagnosis. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius will unveil the strategy at the White House Tuesday afternoon along with Melody Barnes, the Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and Jeffrey Crowley, director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy. President Obama is scheduled to deliver remarks on the HIV plan at 5:50 p.m. at a White House reception to honor the work of the HIV/AIDS Community That is meant to be a roadmap to guide coordinated efforts to combat the nation’s HIV epidemic, by bringing together state and local governments, business, faith communities, the science and medical communities, charities, education institutions and Americans living with HIV. The White House said its Office of National AIDS Policy hosted 14 HIV/AIDS community discussions with thousands of Americans across the nation and took suggestions via its web site. The Obama Administration’s plan centers around three main points: reducing the number of new HIV infections; increasing access to care and optimizing health outcomes for those living with HIV; and reducing HIV-related health disparities. HIV/AIDS advocacy groups said there is no new federal money in this strategy -- it is a redirecting of money that has already been allocated. “We need to do a better job of scaling up interventions that work in populations that are most acutely affected,” said Chris Collins, vice president and director of public policy at the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR). The strategy calls for allocating “limited resources” by “giving much more attention and resources” to populations that are at the highest risk for HIV infection. Those high-risk groups include gay men who account for 2 percent of the U.S. population but 53 percent of new HIV infections and black men and women, who represent only 13 percent of the nation’s population but account for 46 percent of people living with HIV, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Collins, whose organization has met with White House officials to consult on the new strategy, called it a “great start.” “I’m very hopeful that this strategy is going to make an important difference in the domestic response to HIV/AIDS,” Collins told ABC News. “We’ve neglected for far too long and we haven’t been sufficiently coordinated, there hasn’t been accountability for better outcomes and we have the results to show for it.” Collins said there were many important lessons to be learned from the United States’ response to the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, a program started under former President George W. Bush. Collins said that PEPFAR was “very much oriented around outcomes.” “We need to move the domestic response to that kind of outcomes oriented effort,” he said, citing accountability, target setting and coordination as key elements that can make the domestic response more effective. One advocacy group said it was “disappointed” by the Obama Administration’s pace on this issue. Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), said there was “really no ‘there’ there.” “This strategy is a day late and a dollar short: 15 months in the making, and the White House learned what people in the field have known for years,” Weinstein said. “There is no funding, no ‘how to,’ no real leadership.” -- Karen Travers

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