Obama AIDS policy: much social media and little cash

by
July 14, 2010

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor, Reuters

(Reuters) – A new domestic AIDS policy rolled out by the White House on Tuesday looks for new ways to educate people about the deadly and incurable virus, from social media to “scientifically sound” school campaigns.

It aims to cut new transmissions by 25 percent, get more patients treated quickly and reduce the stigma that prevents people from getting tested.

While it calls for more coordinated policies, the plan does not allocate any new money to do the job.

“To accomplish these goals, we must undertake a more coordinated national response to the epidemic,” President Barack Obama writes in an introduction to the plan.

“The federal government can’t do this alone, nor should it. Success will require the commitment of governments at all levels, businesses, faith communities, philanthropy, the scientific and medical communities, educational institutions, people living with HIV and others.”

More than 1.1 million people in the United States are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 56,000 new infections every year.

Many studies have shown that blacks, gay and bisexual men and Hispanics are the most affected groups, but only 79 percent of those infected know it.

The new White House plan aims to get that number up to 90 percent by 2015 and says people should not only be tested to learn whether they have the virus, but should have access to care and tests to monitor the infection so they can decide if and when to start taking drugs that can control it.

While not a cure, these drug cocktails can keep patients healthy and can reduce the risk that they will infect other people. AIDS is transmitted during sex, in blood and on needles and in breast milk.

“More must be done to ensure that new prevention methods are identified and that prevention resources are more strategically concentrated in specific communities at high risk for HIV infection,” the report reads.

FIGHTING MISPERCEPTIONS

“We must also move away from thinking that one approach to HIV prevention will work, whether it is condoms, pills, or information,” it adds, pointing to public misperceptions about HIV.

The plan looks for new ways to reach and educate people about HIV. “By the end of 2010 CDC will initiate a CDC-wide review of all social marketing and education campaigns related to HIV, STI (sexually transmitted infections), substance abuse and risk behaviors that increase risk of HIV transmission and will work to expand evidence based efforts to achieve maximum impact,” it reads.

“CDC will consider strategies for ensuring that school-based health education is providing scientifically sound information about HIV transmission and risk reduction strategies.”

Public funding should go to geographic areas with the highest infection rates and doctors should be encouraged to treat HIV patients, the plan says.

It urges the Food and Drug Administration to make review of new HIV tests a priority and said HIV patients need not just medical care, but housing and other support.

The plan said “public and private sector entities” must help establish “a seamless system to immediately link people to continuous and coordinated quality care when they are diagnosed with HIV” but does not detail what such a system would look like.

To read more, visit: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE66B65B20100713?type=domesticNews

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