Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
National Journal Interviews Former AIDS Czar Sandra Thurman
National Journal this week interviewed Sandra Thurman, former head of the Office of National AIDS Policy and founder of the International AIDS Trust. Discussing her experiences at last month's U.N. General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS, Thurman called the meeting "symbolically ... very important." The Declaration of Commitment passed at the meeting is a "good" but not "great" document, she added, saying that people need to "move from rhetoric to real action." Her "fear" about the conference is that delegates will "leave the meeting thinking that they've actually done something," when action is still needed. Thurman said that the passage of a House International Relations Committee bill authorizing more funding for international HIV/AIDS efforts represents a "great opportunity" for the Bush administration to "build on what was done before and respond in a much more aggressive way." She also said that the Clinton administration was "a little slow to respond to the epidemic internationally," but that it "made up for some lost time." When asked to grade the Bush administration on its HIV/AIDS efforts so far, Thurman said she was "not sure" if she should give it a "C or a D," but leaned toward a C because it has "done well on the international side." She called the $200 million donation to the Global AIDS and Health Fund a "good down payment and a good-faith effort." Commenting on the future of the disease, Thurman said that HIV/AIDS will "have an impact on the world like nothing we have ever known." Without a cure or a vaccine "in sight," the epidemic in Africa is "just the tip of the iceberg," she said, adding that the "decisions that we make today will have a tremendous impact on what entire societies look like in many parts of the world." When asked about her own future, Thurman said she "can't imagine a time" when she will not be working on HIV/AIDS-related issues. She concluded, "Having worked on the front lines, you never lose sight that this epidemic is not about facts or figures but about faces, and not about numbers but names. For those of us who have done that work, this can never be an academic exercise. Those memories haunt you every step of the way" (Warner, National Journal, 7/7).
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