Bush Administration Plans Shift in AIDS Prevention Funds to ‘Confront Behavioral Aspects,’ Evertz Says
The Bush administration's task force on AIDS may recommend a shift in policy to "confront the behavioral aspects" of HIV, including supporting condom distribution in the prison system to prevent HIV-positive inmates from spreading the virus in their communities when they are released, Scott Evertz, director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, said Monday, Reuters Health reports. Speaking at the National Conference on African Americans and AIDS, which concluded yesterday in Washington, D.C., Evertz said that discussions stemming from the president's task force, headed by Secretary of State Colin Powell and HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, indicate the administration's "willingness" to support more "controversial" approaches to HIV/AIDS prevention. However, a policy of distributing condoms within the prison system, where the HIV infection rate is 500% above the national average, would put the White House at odds with Attorney General John Ashcroft, who opposed such programs as a U.S. senator. Evertz said, "I am convinced that there are individuals in the Justice Department who are willing to have that conversation." While the task force has yet to make any recommendations to the president, Evertz said that officials are looking to "better targe[t]" AIDS prevention spending toward African Americans, who represent 48% of new AIDS cases, and areas with the highest infection rates (Zwillich, Reuters Health, 2/25). "The dollars need to follow the epidemic and we need to make sure that we're getting the dollars where the epidemic has moved," Evertz said. "[W]e really have every intention of making sure that the dollars go to those communities," he added (Evertz speech transcript, 2/25). A kaisernetwork.org HealthCast of Evertz's speech is available online.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.