Dr. Helene Gayle Speaks About Move From CDC to Head Gates Foundation’s AIDS Efforts in New York Times Interview
The New York Times today features an interview with Dr. Helene Gayle, who this week will step down from her position as head of the CDC's National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention to join the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as its senior adviser for HIV and AIDS issues. Gayle has been with the CDC for 17 years and has spent six years as the head of the prevention center. During that time, the AIDS epidemic "has gone through drastic shifts, and the methods, and messages, of prevention have evolved," the Times reports. Gayle stated that in the "early days," AIDS prevention campaigns started out "general," targeting everyone and aiming to "get as much information to as many people as possible." But now, she said, "much greater" efforts need to be made to convey prevention messages to people who are already HIV-positive. "The message was 'if you're [HIV-]negative, stay negative.' While we must continue programs for those who are negative, we also need to reinforce the message that 'if you're positive, don't pass the virus on,'" Gayle said. She added that the most effective prevention programs are often community-based and "tailored to the needs of a given population." Such efforts must address issues such as self-esteem and stigma, she said, because these issues often have an impact on one's "ability to say no [to sex] or to use condoms." Gayle added that although "just about everybody knows about AIDS and how it is spread," some people may not think themselves at risk because they are not in a specific population.
When asked about the controversy surrounding the recent NIH report that "questioned" whether condoms provided effective protection against some STDs, Gayle said that there was "a lot of confusion" surrounding the study. She added that the study "was interpreted from a variety of different vantage points, depending on what people wanted it to say." She said, "But if you read the report closely, it gives clear evidence and support that condoms are effective against HIV and some STDs. The available evidence is that condoms protect better against some STDs like HIV, than others" (Villarosa, New York Times, 8/28).