New AIDS pro­gram puts pre­ven­tion, care in fo­cus

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION - By Julie Pace

WASHINGTON—Pres­i­dent Barack Obama said Tues­day that a new na­tional strat­egy for com­bat­ing HIV and AIDS ful­fills Amer­ica’s obli­ga­tion to stop­ping the spread of the virus and root­ing out the in­equities and at­ti­tudes on which it thrives.

The strat­egy sets a goal of re­duc­ing new in­fec­tions by 25 per­cent over the next five years; get­ting treat­ment for 85 per­cent of pa­tients within three months of their di­ag­no­sis; and in­creas­ing ed­u­ca­tion about the virus, even in com­mu­ni­ties with low rates of in­fec­tion.

“Fight­ing HIV/AIDS in Amer­ica and around the world will re­quire more than just fight­ing the virus,” Obama said at the White House. “It will re­quire a broader ef­fort to make life more just and eq­ui­table.”

The ad­min­is­tra­tion is al­lo­cat­ing $30 mil­lion from the mas­sive health care over­haul Congress passed this year to­ward im­ple­men­ta­tion of the plan.

Al­though med­i­cal break­throughs have greatly im­proved qual­ity of life for the 1.1 mil­lion Amer­i­cans liv­ing with HIV, the U.S. has strug­gled to lower the rate of new in­fec­tions. There is a new HIV in­fec­tion ev­ery 9½ min­utes in the U.S., and about one of ev­ery five peo­ple liv­ing with HIV doesn’t know it, ex­perts say.

The new strat­egy sets a goal of re­duc­ing new in­fec­tions by 25 per­cent in the next five years.

“We’ve been keep­ing pace when we should be gain­ing ground,” Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Kath­leen Se­be­lius said at a sep­a­rate event un­veil­ing the strat­egy ear­lier in the day.

Part of the strat­egy for low­er­ing new in­fec­tions re­lies on tar­get­ing HIV pre­ven­tion ef­forts at the high­est-risk pop­u­la­tions, which in­clude gay and bi­sex­ual men as well as black Amer­i­cans, far more than is now done.

That means find­ing ways to help HIV-neg­a­tive peo­ple stay that way and pro­vid­ing ed­u­ca­tion and treat­ment for peo­ple who are liv­ing with HIV to re­duce their chances of spread­ing the virus, said Chris Collins of the Foun­da­tion for AIDS Re­search.

“We’ve never had that kind of co­or­di­nated, ac­count­able ef­fort to ad­dress AIDS in Amer­ica, and that’s what we need,” Collins said.

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