Obama Administration Unveils First-Ever National Plan to Fight Domestic HIV Epidemic
Resources, Accountability and Strong Implementation Are Key
After three years of rigorous grassroots advocacy, the Obama Administration released the country’s first National HIV/AIDS Strategy this week. The unprecedented plan sets forth an ambitious agenda to effectively address the domestic U.S. HIV epidemic.
“The National HIV/AIDS Strategy marks the culmination of years of hard work by the HIV/AIDS community,” said Nashville CARES CEO Joseph Interrante. “Its release brings much hope to all Americans affected by HIV/AIDS. Nashville CARES commends the President and the Office of National AIDS Policy for developing a plan to meet the challenges of the domestic HIV epidemic.”
The strategy sets three goals: reduce new HIV infections; increase access to care for people living with HIV/AIDS and optimize health outcomes; and reduce HIV-related health disparities. It also addresses the social factors such as stigma and discrimination that contribute to vulnerability to HIV infection and poor health outcomes. The clear goals, timelines, and measurable outcomes in the strategy must now be followed by sound and coordinated implementation with adequate resources and the engagement of multiple partners to produce actual results. This would make NHAS the first truly effective, comprehensive national plan in response to the U.S. HIV/AIDS epidemic, now in its 30th year.
The high-note hit by the release of the NHAS stands in stark contrast to other recent developments in HIV/AIDS. “The crisis in the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, with more than 2,200 people currently on state waiting lists for life-saving medications, underscores that successful implementation will depend upon adequate funding,” said Interrante. “This means new and increased funding targeted in ways consistent with the strategy, and not merely a redirection of existing funds.”
The release of NHAS is a critical step, but it is a beginning, not an end. Implementation of the strategy must engage local community stakeholders as well as government, business and labor leaders, health care professionals, philanthropy, and faith communities in creating strategies that work locally. Nashville CARES looks forward to working with its national, regional and local partners to ensure that the NHAS is successful, and that the United States become, in the words of the NHAS, “a place where new HIV infections are rare” and there is “unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination.”
Nashville CARES APPLAUDS PRESERVATION
Of 2010-11 STATE HIV/AIDS FUNDING
Nashville CARES thanks members of the Tennessee General Assembly for the preservation of $7.2 million in state funding for HIV/AIDS. The funds provide life-saving care, medications and services to more than 8,000 low-income Tennesseans. “Preservation of this safety net will often mean the difference between life and death for many of our fellow citizens living with HIV and AIDS,” said CARES CEO Joseph Interrante.
“We had a crisis in this state for 7-8 months with our first-ever waiting list in the HIV Drug Assistance Program,” Interrante noted. “Careful marshalling of resources along with special supplemental federal funding helped us to get rid of the waiting list in April. We are hopeful that the 2010-11 state appropriation will enable us to avoid going back to a waiting list this year. However, we will not be able to avoid a waiting list indefinitely without additional state funding in the future.”
CARES also commends lawmakers for appropriating $423,000 for HIV rapid testing in 2010-2011. “Testing saves lives by finding HIV-infected people and getting them into care early in the disease when treatment can be most effective,” said Interrante. “This benefits the individual as well as the community since its costs much less to care for some with HIV than full-blown AIDS.
“Moreover, Ryan White funding now requires states to have a thorough plan to find undiagnosed individuals and get them into care in order to continue to receive funding. Support for testing is one important component of such a plan.”
Nashville CARES hopes to meet with members of the General Assembly over the next year to update them about the challenges of HIV/AIDS in Tennessee and the benefits of the federal-state partnership to address the needs of prevention, treatment and care in our state.