CDC AIDS Policy ‘Shakeup’ Endangers Prevention Funding, Florida Advocates Say
AIDS advocates in Florida are concerned that a CDC "shakeup" of the country's AIDS programs could endanger funding for prevention efforts, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reports. The CDC has said that the current emphasis on community outreach prevention programs has proved ineffective, citing an increase in new HIV infections. The agency has therefore decided to shift its focus to HIV testing (Wyman, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 5/25). The strategy, outlined in the April 18 issue of the agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, calls for HIV to be included among the diseases, such as syphilis, rubella, group B Strep and hepatitis, for which pregnant women are already tested. The plan also urges local health authorities to make widespread use of a rapid HIV test, approved by the FDA in November 2002 and approved for expanded availability by HHS in February. The CDC wants to offer the test in all federally funded clinics, as well as in places where there are people who may not have access to routine medical care, such as homeless shelters, jails and substance abuse treatment centers (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/17). Dr. Rob Janssen, CDC's director of HIV prevention, in April said that the government will invest most heavily in initiatives that offer HIV testing and counseling to HIV-positive people, which could jeopardize approximately $90 million in annual federal funding for community groups. Janssen said that the changes could be in effect by July 2004 (Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 4/18). Florida AIDS advocates fear that the change could jeopardize funding for its neighborhood outreach, condom distribution, safe-sex education and peer counseling campaigns, forcing some projects to shut down. Bill Darrow, a public health professor at Florida International University, said, "I see this [plan] as a receding or ebbing of the cutting-edge work that we've been doing." He added, "The CDC has been promoting community involvement and leadership in HIV prevention efforts, and what I see now is that is all gone. This seems to be political and ideological rather than scientifically based" (Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 5/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.