Office of National AIDS Policy Blog

  • Defying the Odds: End the Rise of HIV/AIDS in Native American Communities

    HIV remains a highly stigmatized condition. It is a serious medical condition and people still die of AIDS.  Nonetheless, we have highly effective treatments for people living with HIV and better tools than ever before to prevent infection.   As uncomfortable as it may be for some people to talk about HIV and AIDS, discussing the basic facts about transmission, testing, and treatment are essential to stopping this epidemic in its tracks. That is why on Sunday, March 20th, we will commemorate the fifth annual National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day to educate and encourage American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) to take action to stop the spread of this disease.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that American Indians and Alaska Natives represent less than 1 percent of those living with HIV. However, these communities continue to be impacted by HIV. CDC surveillance data show that from 2006 through 2009, the estimated annual rate of HIV diagnosis increased among AI/AN people.  In 2009, the estimated rate of HIV diagnosis was 9.8 per 100,000, higher than the rate for white and Asian Americans.  Additionally, the CDC estimates that approximately 26% of AI/AN people living with HIV are unaware of their infection. Once diagnosed with AIDS, AI/AN people are less likely to survive compared to HIV-positive individuals in other communities.

  • National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day: What Can You Do? Take Action!

    Today is the sixth annual National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a nationwide initiative coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health (OWH) to make more people aware of the increasing impact that this deadly epidemic is having on women and girls in the United States. This is the time when we ask individuals and organizations across the country to bring attention to this epidemic and to take action to prevent the spread of this disease.

    Since the beginning of the epidemic, women have been impacted by HIV and AIDS. Over the last two decades, the proportion of estimated AIDS cases diagnosed among women has more than tripled, from 7 percent in 1985 to 25 percent in 2009. Women of color are especially impacted—HIV diagnosis rates for Black women is nearly 20 times the rate for white women. HIV infection is one of the leading causes of death among Black and Latina women age 25-44 years.

  • A Call to Action: Leveraging Private Sector Support for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy

    When President Obama released the National HIV/AIDS Strategy in July 2010, he said, “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.” 

    Clearly, success at achieving our aggressive goals in the Strategy depends not only on Federal leadership, but new investments and new partnerships from all parts society.  We know that some of our biggest successes in fighting HIV/AIDS have come about because of private sector initiatives, and we’ve called on businesses and foundations to provide that next level of leadership by stepping up their efforts in a few targeted areas.  We want to hear about your successful partnerships and new ideas for working together.

    Priority areas where private sector partners can help us to achieve the National HIV/AIDS Strategy goals are:

    • Bridging the gap in access to HIV medications:  Over the past year, a growing challenge has arisen as an increasing number of people living with HIV are placed on waiting lists for state operated AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP).  Most states have managed to avoid imposing these waiting lists, but nearly 6,500 people in 11 states are currently on waiting lists.  Even states without these lists have had to make difficult decisions such as to restrict the scope of drug coverage available or to limit the income standards of people who qualify for assistance. The Federal government has a role to play in responding to this situation and states must remain committed to investing in these programs, but we need the continued commitment from our private sector partners to weather the economic downturn that is afflicting many parts of the country.  Pharmaceutical companies and related charitable organizations have maintained patient assistance programs that provide critical aid to those in need.  We are appreciative that these companies have maintained and increased their commitments in this area.  Foundations have also helped to support community efforts to bolster state investments in programs providing HIV medications. 
    • Ensuring that the HIV community and people living with HIV take full advantage of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act:  The Affordable Care Act will greatly expand access to insurance coverage in 2014, and there are already numerous immediate benefits for people living with HIV and others.  Private sector partners can help the HIV community work through the implementation phase by helping people living with HIV and the HIV care system learn about the improvements in insurance coverage and critical steps to be taken both to ensure that no new gaps in coverage appear as people gain new coverage. Private sector partners also can ensure that HIV clinics, clinicians, and services providers are adapting to and engaging in the newly expanded insurance system.
    • Improving understanding, reducing stigma, and communicating actionable information to the public, especially among most affected communities: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other Federal agencies have a role to play in operating social marketing initiatives and other programs to improve understanding about HIV.  At the same time, the private sector has unique experience, expertise, and assets to bring to bear.  As we focus on the populations and communities at greatest risk, private sector partners can help to deliver action-oriented information on issues such as prevention, testing, and treatment, including promoting early entry into clinical care for people living with HIV and increasing knowledge about HIV and reducing stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS.  The private sector can also fill an important need by strengthening critical community institutions and supporting capacity building of community based organizations within the communities most disproportionately impacted by HIV, such as within local organizations serving Black and Latino gay men, youth (including homeless youth and LGBT youth), substance users, and women of color.  
    • Supporting innovative partnerships in the cities and communities with the most cases of HIV:  CDC has begun important work in the twelve jurisdictions in the United States with the greatest number of people living with AIDS.  HHS and HUD are also considering a variety of complimentary new initiatives to build on CDC’s work in order to better integrate all of the HIV resources within a community.  This project has relevance not only for these communities, which are responsible for roughly 44% of the epidemic in the US, but it will teach us valuable lessons to be applied to our collective work with other states and jurisdictions across the country.  Private sector partners can support this effort many ways, such as helping community-based partners engage with local government partners on this initiative, coordinating current and new prevention and care efforts in these communities, partnering on outreach efforts, and conducting evaluations and efforts to transfer lessons so that other areas of the country can benefit from the experiences in these high prevalence jurisdictions.  This will also compliment other work of the private sector in responding to high levels of unmet need in other communities, such as in the South.

    The National HIV/AIDS Strategy provides a moment of opportunity to make big things happen.  Business and labor partners, foundations, and other charitable organizations have long made critically important contributions to support individuals and communities affected by HIV/AIDS, often by working with governments to test new ideas or expand successful programs.  Over the coming months, the Administration will be looking for opportunities to partner with the private sector to achieve the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. 

    So, we want to hear from you – the innovative leaders in this space who are undertaking new initiatives to support the implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.  Tell us about your successful partnerships and new ideas for working together at AIDSpolicy@who.eop.gov.

    Melody C. Barnes is an Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council

  • Agency Operational Plans and the President’s FY 2012 Budget Highlight Our Continued Efforts to Implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy

    One of the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy was to refocus existing efforts and deliver better results to the American people within current funding levels, as well as make the case for new investments.  The Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) is excited to share some of the progress the Obama Administration has made over the last few months.

    Last July, when we released the Strategy, the President issued a Presidential Memorandum that directed six lead agencies (Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, the Social Security Administration, and the Department of Veterans Affairs) to submit agency operational plans for implementing the Strategy.  He also directed the Department of Defense, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Department of State to provide recommendations for implementing the Strategy.

    ONAP is pleased to release the plans developed by the agencies, as well as an overview report that we produced to demonstrate the synergies achieved by having all of the lead agencies work toward shared goals.  The ONAP Overview Report and the individual plans themselves can all be accessed at www.AIDS.gov

  • National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day: Coming Together to Fight HIV/AIDS

    To commemorate National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Senior Advisor to President Obama Valerie Jarrett shared her heart-felt thoughts on the importance of combating HIV/AIDS. Watch her video message:

    Download Video: mp4 (34.8MB)

    National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness is not just a day to increase awareness, but a day to act on your own health.

    • Do you know your status? If not, text your zipcode to 566948 (“KNOWIT”) to find and HIV testing site near you or go to HIVtest.org.
    • You can also call 1-800-CDC-INFORMATION for more information and testing sites in your area.
    • Visit www.aids.gov for Federal resources, events in your area and tools to commemorate National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

  • Institute of Medicine Issues Second Report on HIV Screening and Access to Care

    Today, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released the second report in a series that evaluates HIV testing policies and access to care. This report, which is entitled “HIV Screening and Access to Care: Exploring the Impact of Policies on Access to and Provision of HIV Care”, examines how Federal and State laws and policies and private health insurance policies affect entry into clinical care and the provision of continuous and sustained care for people with HIV. The report found that the lack of integration in State and Federal programs that assist people with HIV creates or exacerbates barriers to adequate HIV treatment. In addition, the report concludes that patients often experience medical and social difficulties as a result of their HIV status that, in turn, interfere with their HIV treatment.

    In 2009, the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) commissioned the IOM to convene a 15-member Committee on HIV Screening and Access to Care, which was tasked with planning and conducting a series of three workshops and activities that evaluate barriers to expanded HIV testing and treatment programs. The outcome of these efforts is the issuance of three reports that examine certain questions related to HIV testing policy and access to care. The Committee’s first report focused on the extent to which Federal and State laws and policies, private health insurance policies and practices, and other factors inhibit or promote expanded HIV testing. 

    The final forthcoming report in the series will focus on the current capacity of the health care system to administer a great number of HIV tests and to accommodate new HIV diagnoses.

    Last July, the President released the National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States that includes three primary goals of (1) reducing new HIV infections; (2) increasing access to care; and (3) reducing HIV-related health disparities. Of note, the goal of increasing access to care is tied to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which will significantly expand access to care for people with HIV. This report highlights the opportunities within the Affordable Care Act to expand access, but also addresses the potential challenges we face with respect to ensuring services are coordinated and integrated to improve the quality of care for people with HIV.  As we work toward implementing the goals of the Strategy and the Affordable Care Act, we expect that the issues raised in the report will aid in our implementation efforts.

    To obtain a copy of today’s report or the first report released from the Committee, please visit the IOM website at www.IOM.edu.  

    Chantelle Britton is the Policy Advisor for the Office of National AIDS Policy