The Obama Plan for HIV/AIDS
After reading through about 200 pages of reports associated with the National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States (NHASUS) yesterday, what emerged was a comprehensive plan for reducing the number of new HIV infections and increasing the quality of care for those who do test positive.
I’ve read the strategy—and it’s a good one. I’d sign my name to it. However, this strategy should not be confused with a bill before Congress and therefore has no funding attached to it. Providing the funding for this strategy will likely be an uphill battle that requires unified community effort and pressure on Congress and especially the Senate.
The report gives detailed statistics on everything from rates of infection, disparities between minority groups, breakdowns of funding dispersals between various federal agencies that deal with HIV, and bulleted points on how HIV was dealt with in the past. From this information, a new plan is derived.
In the new plan, we will be releasing regular reports on HIV nationally, something that has been sketchy at best over the last few years. These reports will feature some statistics that we have not previously seen, like “community viral load,” which takes a given area and measures the average number of viral antibodies per person/capita living in that community. This kind of advanced reporting can give us a better picture of how healthy a community might be as opposed to just how many people might be infected. It is an important distinction because some communities with few people infected might have a greater health disparity overall—that is to say some places might have more aggressive or “worse” cases of HIV although fewer in numbers.
The strategy features some language we perhaps have never heard from a government agency before, like “to promote a more holistic approach to health.” This isn’t some fringe herbal remedy dialogue—it refers to the simple idea that we need to take other STDs and illnesses into consideration in the treatment of HIV. Obviously an HIV-positive person isn’t going to have just one isolated health problem, but the current system, at least in Florida, is to treat people with HIV as though it is their only issue. The Obama strategy changes all that.
The report does talk about funding, and even features a pie chart of where HIV/AIDS funding is going this year in terms of how it is dispersed between federal agencies. One shocking statistic is that Ryan White/ADAP funding only accounts for about 15 percent of the money that the federal government spent on HIV/AIDS this year. Where is the rest of it going? About 50 percent went to Medicare, 30 percent went to the CDC and NIH, and the remainder was divided between the Veterans Services, Housing and Urban Development and Social Security.
The Health and Human Services Department is confident that if we follow the strategy, which they call a “living document” that requires “efforts from all levels of state, tribal and local governments and community members,” we can achieve their vision statement, and I’m inclined to agree. That vision statement reads:
“The United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare, and when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination.”