President releases new national HIV/AIDS strategy

This week President Obama released a new national HIV/AIDS strategy. Although much progress has been made in avoiding new infections over the past 20 years, the disease has not been eliminated. After 14 months of consulting doctors, persons living with AIDS, advocates, policy experts and community groups, the administration identified steps to achieve the goals of making new HIV infections a rarity in the U.S. and assuring that every person with HIV/AIDS has easy access to high quality medical care, free from stigma and discrimination regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation or socio-economic circumstances.  

The White House Office of National AIDS Policy’s strategy includes three goals:

  • to reduce new HIV infections,
  • to increase access to care and optimize health outcomes for Americans with HIV/AIDS, and
  • to reduce HIV-related health disparities.

The strategy targets prevention programs to communities where infections are concentrated, specifically condom use, testing for HIV infection and educating people about prevention through health behaviors, better substance abuse treatment, and breakthrough medical research on vaccines and treatments.

Education is particularly important because Americans have become less fearful of HIV/AIDS over the last 20 years, and only 5 percent now believe HIV/AIDS is the highest priority health issue. The strategy aims to educate Americans about how dangerous the disease still is and the steps they can take to protect themselves and their loved ones.

The strategy integrates current programs with this year’s Affordable Care Act initiatives such as the new Prevention and Public Health Fund that will provide $15 billion over the next few years to prevent disease, including HIV/AIDS. The strategy identifies areas for additional investment, but it also outlines how existing resources can be used more effectively to prevent, diagnose and treat HIV/AIDS.

Community organizations will be able to apply for $30 million in new funding to support efforts to help more Americans know their HIV status, particularly in vulnerable populations. For the 1.1 million Americans who are living with HIV/AIDS, the Administration is supporting states that created waiting lists for their AIDS Drug Assistance Programs by pulling $25 million from other programs to help meet demand for the rest of the year.

In addition, the new Affordable Care Act enabled:

  • $250 rebate checks to seniors who’ve fallen into the Medicare prescription drug donut hole,
  • a new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan for those who have been denied insurance because of their medical conditions, and
  • a new Patient’s Bill of Rights to forbid insurance companies from canceling coverage for illness or limiting benefits.

In 2014, the Act expands Medicaid coverage and prohibits denial of health insurance for persons with HIV/AIDS. Finally, the strategy includes steps to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS that prevents people from getting tested or seeking treatment.

A National HIV/AIDS Strategy Implementation Plan lays out detailed action plans to accomplish changes in existing programs and improve results. Other cabinet agencies and sub-agencies are included that work on HIV/AIDS such as the Departments of Justice, Labor and Housing and Urban Development. The strategy also extends to the community and faith-based organizations, businesses, health care professionals and activists. Federal investment in laboratory research is expanded for better prevention tools, treatments and a cure for HIV/AIDS.

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