CDC Guidelines Should Include Comprehensive HIV Prevention Measures, Opinion Piece Says
Although the CDC three months ago released guidelines calling for "sweeping changes" in its HIV prevention strategy, with a focus on people who are already HIV-positive instead of on people who are at risk for contracting HIV, this approach does not "represen[t] our nation's best effort," Michael Cover, associate director for public affairs for the Washington, D.C.-based Whitman-Walker Clinic, writes in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution opinion piece. At the release of the new guidelines, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said, "We can no longer accept the status quo when it comes to HIV/AIDS prevention ... and it is time to expand our prevention strategies in order to more effectively reduce the number of HIV infections in the United States." But Cover says that the new guidelines combined with the 2004 budget for domestic HIV prevention programs are "not an expansion: they actually reduce or eliminate direct support for programs that have effectively prevented HIV transmission among those most at risk for nearly 20 years." He adds, "The CDC must be given the resources both to help those who are HIV-positive understand their role in HIV prevention and to continue to conduct effective health education and risk reduction programs for those HIV-negative people who are most at risk" because clinics should not be forced to choose one over the other. The number of new HIV cases each year -- about 40,000 annually -- has remained steady since 1990, a fact that some critics of comprehensive HIV prevention programs argue is a sign that the programs are not working, Cover writes. However, the data "really indicat[e]" that "[w]e aren't doing enough and we need to add to our efforts, not merely shift our focus," Cover says. He concludes that in order to stop the spread of HIV in the United States, "[w]e must integrate the new strategies proposed by the CDC into a plan that also includes effective programs that have kept the HIV transmission rate from rising" (Cover, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.