Office of National AIDS Policy Blog

  • Working to Break the Silence and Raise HIV/AIDS Awareness in Caribbean American Communities

    Caribbean American communities are incredibly diverse and have contributed greatly to the growth of this Nation.  I learned from watching my mother, who worked as a nurse taking care of sugar cane plantation workers, not only the importance of hard work and dedication but also the importance of family and community.  As a community, we face a significant challenge in tackling HIV. Even though Caribbean Americans comprise less than 10 percent of the total U.S. population, they are included in the disproportionately high rate of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses that occur in Black Americans. As a clinician and a professional in the field of public health, I have seen those challenges first hand. Yet as member of the community, I also know what we can accomplish if we work together. Caribbean American leaders can play an especially important role in the community to promote HIV awareness to address this public health issue. To help prevent HIV/AIDS, community leaders and care providers need to communicate about HIV in culturally relevant and linguistically appropriate ways.

    As with other racial and ethnic minority communities, many Caribbean Americans have taboos against discussing sexual matters related to HIV risk. There is stigma associated with men having sex with men in some Caribbean American communities, and this challenge may influence some individuals to avoid getting tested for HIV.  Delayed HIV testing and diagnosis among Caribbean Americans seriously endangers their health and the health of their sexual partners. We must be clear and open in discussing the risk factors associated with HIV and all work to reduce barriers to testing and treatment. With regular testing to identify new HIV infections, individuals who test positive can have the opportunity to receive appropriate care and treatment to prolong their lives and reduce the chances of infecting others.

    Federal partners including HHS have been working with the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) to develop a National HIV/AIDS Strategy using input from the public, to improve our response to the epidemic in the U.S.  Active involvement by individuals and stakeholders including state, territorial, and local governments will be important in implementing the national strategy. The HHS Office of Minority Health will continue to partner with other agencies and organizations to support capacity building in hard-hit communities, improve care providers’ cultural competency, conduct outreach, and help people to get educated about HIV, get tested, and get treated. We are targeting those hardest hit by the epidemic for example, our HIV/AIDS Health Improvement for Re-entering Ex-Offenders Initiative (HIRE) program bridges healthcare gaps that exist with the AIDS epidemic to improve the HIV/AIDS health outcomes of ex-offenders re-entering the mainstream population by supporting community-based efforts to ensure their successful transition from state or federal incarceration back to their communities.

    Today, we recommit with others around the country to improve the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS. I learned a saying from my mother that not all silence is golden, and silence isn’t golden when it costs lives. On this Caribbean American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, let’s raise our voices together to empower Caribbean American communities to challenge the stigma surrounding the disease in order to help reduce new infections and better serve people living with HIV. Let’s aim to reach our communities with a message focused on prevention and testing, understanding that if we work together we can continue to achieve great things, one of the greatest being an end to the HIV epidemic.  

    Garth Graham, M.D. is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

  • White House Meeting on Black Men and HIV

    The toll of the HIV epidemic among Black men in the United States is staggering.  CDC estimates that 1 in 16 Black men will become infected with HIV in their lifetime.  An estimated two-thirds of people living with HIV/AIDS in the Black community are men, and Black men in some U.S. cities have HIV rates as high as heavily impacted countries in Africa. According to CDC, Black gay and bisexual men are the most heavily impacted population in the Black community.  One study in five major U.S. cities found that as many as half of all Black gay men in these communities were living with HIV. Although not as heavily impacted, Black heterosexual men are also at high risk for HIV infection through heterosexual sex and injection drug use. 

    On June 2, 2010, The Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) convened a meeting at the White House on Black Men and HIV.  The meeting included black men living with HIV, experts on HIV/AIDS, Federal, State, and local policymakers,  community-based service providers, representatives from foundations, and leaders from across the black community’s civil rights and faith organizations.  The purpose of the meeting was to raise awareness about the domestic HIV epidemic among Black men, discuss government and community responses to the epidemic, and promote a conversation among diverse elements of the Black community.  The meeting is part of a series of discussions that have been hosted by ONAP over the past year.  Past meetings have focused on HIV among women, youth, and other topics.

    Part of the reason why it is so important to re-energize the dialogue is that frequently discussions of HIV among Black men have had the effect of casting blame without spreading knowledge of the factors that cause Black men to be at heightened risk. To move forward, we need the public to have a deeper understanding of the complex issues that contribute to infections, and we need a more concentrated focus on solutions for supporting Black men and the other communities who bear a heavy burden of responding to HIV.

    The diversity of participants who attended the event was reflected in the diversity of opinion. Topics ranged from supporting faltering organizations engaged in HIV prevention work with Black men; HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns targeting Black men and education efforts at the Federal and community level; ongoing social pressures facing Black men; the role of the Black community and society at large in preventing HIV infection among Black gay and bisexual men, and how the HIV epidemic among Black men impacts Black women.  Please see the meeting agenda for more information on the speakers and meeting format. 

    As a scientist who has spent the last 10 years addressing this topic while at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I believe that this type of dialogue is essential to improving our country’s response to HIV/AIDS.  This conversation needs to continue, but more importantly, it needs to be followed by collective action to end the national tragedy such that future generations of Black men do not face HIV infection as a rite of passage.  (For more information about HIV, go to www.AIDS.gov )

    Gregorio Millett is the Senior Policy Advisor for the Office of National AIDS Policy.
     

  • World Hepatitis Day

    Today, May 19th we mark World Hepatitis Day. Hepatitis is a public health issue and impacts millions of Americans.  For many people, hepatitis often goes undetected and becomes increasingly difficult to treat over time.  Public awareness remains a critical factor in the prevention, detection and management of this disease and that there is a need to expand knowledge and eliminate hepatitis-related stigma among health care providers, at-risk populations, and the general public.  In honor of World Hepatitis Day, President Obama released the below Presidential Message:

    I send warm greetings to all those observing World Hepatitis Day.

    Millions of Americans are affected by viral hepatitis, and too many do not know they are infected. As a leading cause of liver cancer and related complications, viral hepatitis presents a major public health challenge at home and abroad. We must work together to raise awareness, increase access to services, improve preventive care, and end the silence surrounding this life-threatening illness so at-risk and infected individuals can receive the assistance they need.

    Across the United States, countless health care professionals, researchers, and advocates are working to achieve these goals, and our Nation’s future is more hopeful because of their dedication. Their tireless efforts are bringing us closer to the day when words like “incurable” are no longer a part of our vocabulary.

    On World Hepatitis Day, we renew our support for people living with hepatitis and their loved ones, and for those who are working to improve treatment and prevention. I wish you all the best as you join together to take action against this terrible disease.  

    Jeff Crowley is the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy. 

  • The Role of Public Private Partnerships in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy

    Today, the White Office of National HIV/AIDS Policy (ONAP) engaged the business community, private foundations, and the HIV/AIDS community to begin a dialogue on how to improve the role of public private partnerships as our office develops the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS).  As a former director of a community based organization in Puerto Rico, I know that public private partnerships can mean the difference between continuing to provide life enhancing service or closing up shop.

    Download Download | mp3 (64MB)

    Today's panelists included: Kandy Ferree, National AIDS Fund, President; Nancy Mahon, MAC AIDS Fund, Executive Director, North American Programs; Anthony Hooper, Bristol Myers Squibb, President Americas; Karen Davis, Hasbro, Hasbro Inc., Vice President Community Relations; David  McMurry Chevron Global HIV/AIDS Policy Implementation Senior Manager; Louis O. Spraggins, Positive Charge, Chicago; Joe Kimbrell, Louisiana Public Health Institute; and Tom Luce, National Math and Science Initiative.

    An important factor in the development and implementation of the NHAS is ONAP’s effort to broaden the reach of the national conversation on HIV/AIDS.  Part of that effort involves starting a conversation on the role partnerships between government, private sector foundations, corporations, national HIV/AIDS advocacy and community-based service organizations that are working on the front lines of the HIV epidemic. Today’s panel, moderated by Melody Barnes, Director of the Domestic Policy Council, began the Administration’s conversation of the role of such partnerships in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

    Sonal Shah, Director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation helped frame the panel discussion in her opening remarks.  Sonal shared her ample experience in guiding the development of public private partnerships in other areas, most notably the Administration’s “Educate to Innovate, Campaign for Excellence in STEM” (public private partnerships in science, technology, education) which serves as an Administration model for building public private partnerships. 

    The panel highlighted the importance of the business community, private national funders, and the HIV/AIDS service and advocacy communities in collaborating in the development of public private partnerships.  The participants highlighted current programs being funded by the private sector, which directly align with the goals, and objectives the President outlined for the National Strategy. The event also recognized the efforts of national AIDS organizations and community-based partners as they work collaboratively to increase access to lifesaving care.

    Moving forward, our office will seek to encourage the development of public private partnerships that bring to bear new resources and expertise for the populations and communities most affected by HIV/AIDS in the United States.  It will take innovative leadership from these key stakeholders to effectively address the three pillars of the NHAS – Reducing Incidence, Increasing Access to Care and Reducing Health Disparities.

    ONAP has stressed that the work of the NHAS does not fall to the Federal government alone.  Success will require the commitment of all parts of society; including people living with HIV, state and local governments, corporate America, faith communities, highly affected communities, philanthropy, and others.   ONAP and the Obama Administration have been clear to say that the presence, of a National HIV/AIDS Strategy alone, will not effectively address the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic.  The NHAS must have clear goals, measurable outcomes and meaningful opportunities for broad, and importantly engagement across sectors.    

    James Albino is the Senior Program Manager in the Office of National AIDS Policy.
     

  • ONAP to Hold Community Meeting and Conference Call on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy

    On Friday, May 14, 2010, the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) will hold a community meeting to provide an update and gain additional recommendations for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS).  For those who cannot attend the meeting in person, ONAP will hold a conference call shortly after the meeting to discuss the strategy. 

    We know the strategy’s success will rely on the participation of our community partners across the country.  That’s why we hosted 14 community discussions across the country, and conducted an online call to action to solicit recommendations via our website. In February, we co-hosted with the Department of Health and Human Services, a community meeting to update the public on our progress and introduce the Federal HIV Interagency Working Group.  Earlier this month, we released a report summarizing community recommendations we received for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. 

    During the May 14 meeting and the conference call, ONAP will provide a brief overview of key priorities and identify issues where additional feedback would be helpful.  Participants will be able to offer suggestions for the strategy, and we encourage public input on the following topics:

    •    Involving non-traditional stakeholders in fighting HIV/AIDS
    •    Expanding the engagement of key partners including businesses and philanthropy, faith communities, and HIV service providers
    •    Ensuring that implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy is successful

    Below are details for both the community meeting and conference call:

    ONAP COMMUNITY MEETING

    When:  Friday, May 14th at 11:00 am (Eastern Time).  Guests should arrive by 10:15am to ensure smooth security processing.)  The meeting will end by 12:30 pm.
    Where:   South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House
    To RSVP for this event, please submit the following information to aidspolicy@who.eop.gov by Close of Business Monday, May, 10th: Full Name, Date of Birth, Social Security Number, Country of Origin, Citizenship.  Members of the public will be accommodated on a first come first served basis as meeting room space is limited.  We will respond to RSVPs to confirm all reservations to attend the event.

    ONAP COMMUNITY CONFERENCE CALL

    When: Friday, May 14th at 1:00pm (Eastern Time).  The call will end at 2:00 pm (Eastern Time).
    Conference Call Phone Number: (800) 288-8961          

    Media wishing to attend must send the following information to media_affairs@who.eop.gov by close of business on Monday, May 10: News Outlet, Full Name, Date of Birth, Social Security Number, Country of Origin, Citizenship.

    Jeffrey S. Crowley is the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy and Senior Advisor on Disability Policy

  • ONAP Releases Report of Community Recommendations for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy

    Last fall, the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) asked Americans to give us their input for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which will be released in the coming months.  From the beginning, ONAP recognized that community feedback would be invaluable to our National HIV/AIDS Strategy development so we hosted 14 community discussions and meetings throughout the United States, in addition to launching an online portal for Americans to send their comments directly to the White House.  In the end, we received over 1000 written responses from nearly every state and U.S. territory, from people affected by or living with HIV, from men, women, and transgender individuals, from young and old, and from respondents of various ethnicities, racial backgrounds and sexual orientation. 

    Despite the diversity in setting and respondents, a core set of common themes emerged across all of the recommendations.  Today, we are releasing a report of the major themes that we heard from the public .

    Throughout this process we heard that people want to bring the issue of HIV/AIDS back into the forefront of the American psyche through efforts such as social marketing campaigns and comprehensive HIV prevention and education for youth, injection drug users, communities of color, and gay and bisexual men.  Access to care was also commonly discussed.  Specifically, expanding support services for people living with HIV and the need to diagnose and treat co-occurring conditions such as Hepatitis, substance use, mental health, and markers of economic instability (e.g. housing, joblessness).    

    Even when access to treatment is available, the stigma surrounding an HIV diagnosis may be too great for people to get tested or enroll in care. We heard from many people living with HIV who spoke about the stigma associated with being HIV-positive and its effect on their daily lives.    Many people discussed the ways in which stigma and discrimination contributed to HIV-related racial, geographic, and gender disparities. People also described personal accounts of discrimination and stigma from providers and difficulties in accessing a range of services, including dental care and prenatal care. 

    Last, many expressed the importance of coordinating HIV prevention and treatment activities across the Federal government.  Many also expressed the importance of evaluating current HIV prevention and care efforts and making sure that these evaluation activities help guide Federal, state and local activities and funding. 

    These recommendations are only a subset of the input that we had received and many more recommendations for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy are detailed in the community discussions report. Not all of the recommendations, however, will appear in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.  To be effective, the strategy must include a small number of high payoff items that will address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States.  Nevertheless, we intend for this community report to provide a baseline for the status of the domestic epidemic and serve as a planning tool and resource for Federal, State and local agencies. We are grateful for the many Americans who helped make this report possible and for the many insightful recommendations that will go a long way in ensuring that the National HIV/AIDS Strategy is a success.