Advocates Call for Creation of National Strategy To Fight HIV/AIDS in U.S.
Advocates at a congressional briefing on Tuesday called for a comprehensive strategy to address HIV/AIDS in the U.S., CQ HealthBeat reports. According to the advocates, the plan should focus on boosting coordination between stakeholders, targeting high-risk populations -- such as blacks, Hispanics and men who have sex with men -- and reducing HIV/AIDS-related stigma. Some of the advocates suggested that the plan follow the framework of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
Terrell Halaska, a consultant who has served as a health and education adviser for Congress and the Bush administration, attributed much of PEPFAR's success to its multipronged approach. Halaska added that an effective domestic strategy would require guidelines for antiretroviral treatment, HIV testing and prevention, as well as "connecting the dots" among existing programs. Halaska also said that such a plan would need bipartisan support and the ability to engage partners in the business, education and philanthropy sectors.
Halaska said that U.S. HIV/AIDS efforts overseas have been more effective than domestic programs, adding that domestic efforts are a "Byzantine maze of programs." Halaska said, "We have to take the same approach here that we did overseas."
Majorie Hill, CEO of the Gay Men's Health Crisis, said an effective domestic strategy would require significant efforts among lawmakers. "A national AIDS strategy will require presidential leadership," she said, noting that Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) have pledged to develop plans if elected. Advocates also have sought a similar commitment from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), according to Hill. Congress also "clearly has a crucial role" in allocating domestic HIV/AIDS funding and holding the next administration accountable, Hill added.
In addition, Kathie Hiers, CEO of AIDS Alabama, voiced disappointment in a shortage of CDC funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and surveillance programs. She said that the Alabama Department of Public Health receives $2 million in CDC funding annually and that $500,000 of the money goes to HIV/AIDS programs. Hiers said she and her colleagues sometimes joke about applying for PEPFAR funding because HIV/AIDS cases in Alabama "rival those of Africa." She noted that 70% of HIV cases occur among blacks, even though the group accounts for 23% of the state's population (Cooley, CQ HealthBeat, 5/20).