WASHINGTON - President Obama today announced the launch of the National HIV/AIDS Community Discussions, a series of events to be held across the country. These events, hosted by the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) will offer the public a chance to provide input as the White House works to fulfill the President's pledge to develop a National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS). The first event, the Atlanta HIV/AIDS Community Discussion, will be held on August 25th at the 2009 National HIV Prevention Conference.So why can't Obama just announce a national strategy and get started on it? AIDS experts and activists have been pushing for this for decades now - isn't there a consensus on what we need to do?
"HIV remains an serious challenge to the American people and I am committed to developing an effective National HIV/AIDS Strategy," said President Obama. "The National HIV/AIDS Community Discussions will provide an opportunity for members of the public to give their input on how we can best address this crucial issue. With the insights from communities across the country, we will have a strategy that is focused on the goals of reducing HIV incidence, getting people living with HIV/AIDS into care and improving health outcomes, and reducing HIV-related health disparities." [read more here]
Not exactly. With the exception of needle exchanges - the proven HIV prevention strategy for IV drug users - there is little consensus on how to reduce infections among other at-risk groups. Now that the safe-sex culture among gay men from the early AIDS years is seriously fraying, most proposals for addressing their rising infection rates (changing HIV testing laws, serosorting, recommending immediate treatment for anyone HIV positive, PrEP, etc.), are still being hotly debated. The same holds true for reducing infections among African Americans, women, and other at-risk groups.
I've got my own opinions on things we should try, but getting all our ideas on the table for discussion is a good first step. I just hope these discussions aren't like the recent town-hall meetings on health care reform, where only the loudest are heard. While HIV treatment activists have done a good job of learning and promoting science-based policies, the same can't be said for many of our prevention activists. I, for one, will be listening closely to our boring epidemiologists and scientists with long track records in HIV prevention research.