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Jul 13, 2010 3:47 PM by Melissa Canone

New National HIV And AIDS Strategy

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration unveiled a new
national HIV and AIDS strategy Tuesday that officials said reflects
a nation at a turning point in its fight against the epidemic.
While 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. The new strategy
sets a goal of reducing new infections by 25 percent over the next
five years.
About 56,000 people in the U.S. become infected each year, a
rate that has held steady for about a decade.
"We've been keeping pace when we should be gaining ground,"
said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during a
White House event announcing the strategy.
President Barack Obama was to discuss the new plan at a
reception honoring the work of the HIV and AIDS community Tuesday
evening.
The plan also calls for a renewed focus on increasing access to
care, with the goal of getting treatment for 85 percent of patients
within three months of their diagnosis; concentrating HIV
prevention efforts at the highest-risk populations, which include
gay and bisexual men as well as black Americans; and increasing
education about the virus, even in communities with low rates of
infection.
"The progress we've made in the past 30 years has come with an
unintended side affect - Americans have become less fearful of HIV
and AIDS," Sebelius said. "We can't afford that kind of
complacency."
The report is the result of more than a year of discussions
between the administration, state and local officials, advocacy
groups and the private sector. The administration is allocating $30
million from the massive health care overhaul Congress passed
earlier this year toward implementation of the strategy.
Some AIDS activists have criticized the plan for not setting
more ambitous goals, and for not funding the benchmarks it does lay
out.
"The president's plan is so flawed that it might actually
represent a step backwards in combating HIV and AIDS in the United
States," said Charles King, president of Housing Works, a
community-based AIDS organization.
The strategy aims to copy some of the steps credited with
spurring the success of a Bush-era policy to fight AIDS in hard-hit
developing countries. That includes setting specific targets and
mandating coordination among different government agencies to guard
against missteps and wasted, duplicated efforts.
"We've never had that kind of coordinated, accountable effort
to address AIDS in America, and that's what we need," said Chris
Collins of the Foundation for AIDS Research, one of the groups that
met with administration officials.
There is a new HIV infection every 9½ minutes in the U.S. But
about one of every five people living with HIV doesn't know it.
Access to care plays a role in prevention, too, because the more
virus in someone's bloodstream, the easier it is for that person to
spread infection through such things as unprotected sex.
In one step toward reducing disparities in access to care, the
Obama administration on Friday reallocated $25 million to states
that have waiting lists for their AIDS Drug Assistance Programs,
which provide treatment help for the uninsured and underinsured.
The National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors
reported that more than 2,200 people in 12 states were on waiting
lists for ADAP help as of last week.

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