CDC’s New HIV/AIDS Prevention Strategy Could ‘Undercut’ Current Programs, Sen. Durbin Says
The CDC's new HIV/AIDS prevention guidelines could "undercut successful efforts [to combat the disease] that are already underway," Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) wrote on Tuesday in a letter to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson (Durbin letter, 6/17). The CDC has said that the current emphasis on community outreach prevention programs has proved ineffective, citing an increase in the number of new HIV infections. The agency has therefore decided to shift its focus to HIV testing. The strategy, outlined in the April 18 issue of the agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, calls for HIV to be included in routine testing for pregnant women and 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/28). Durbin says that he is "concerned that the CDC plans to finance the priorities outlined in its new initiative by reducing funding for primary HIV prevention and risk reduction services, including community and structural interventions." Durbin also says that he is concerned about the recommendation for testing pregnant women for HIV because it "weakens and removes, in some instances, the linkage between HIV counseling and testing," which he says is "critical to curbing the spread of HIV." In the letter, Durbin asks Thompson to continue to support primary HIV prevention activities and "strengthen the CDC's message to health care professionals to provide ongoing HIV counseling to all their patients," especially pregnant women. Durbin concludes that there is "no simple way to confront this epidemic," adding that "a more comprehensive approach is essential, one that is mindful of the unique prevention needs of diverse communities across the United States" (Durbin letter, 6/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.