Treat AIDS Like a Disease, Not Political Issue, Opinion Piece Says
In order to fight HIV/AIDS in the United States, the public policy and health care communities must begin to treat AIDS "as a disease, not a political issue," and the communities must refrain from allowing privacy issues to be a "primary concern" in making AIDS policy, Joe McIlhaney, president and founder of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, writes in a St. Paul Pioneer Press opinion piece. Because HIV/AIDS primarily affected gay men during the early years of the epidemic, concerns about stigmatization and discrimination played a large role in determining AIDS policy, McIlhaney says. "[T]raditional infectious disease control methods" of screening, tracking virus carriers and notifying at-risk individuals lost out to "concerns about individual rights" and privacy issues, he says. The CDC's new guidelines recommending HIV testing as a routine part of medical care represent a "bold and important policy change that will help us begin to reduce the rate of HIV" in the United States, McIlhaney writes (McIlhaney, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 6/13). The CDC in April issued new guidelines calling 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 CDC also called on local health authorities to make widespread use of a rapid HIV 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, 6/13). "It speaks volumes about how far our attitudes about HIV/AIDS have come in this country that these CDC policy changes were met with approval by the medical community and AIDS activists and hardly noticed by the general public," McIlhaney says, concluding that in order to reduce the number of new infections in the country, "[w]e need to keep moving, quickly, in this direction" (St. Paul Pioneer Press, 6/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.