Office of National AIDS Policy Blog

  • A Transformative Time for HIV Prevention and Care

    It’s a great honor to join an Administration that’s done so much to address the HIV epidemic. I especially want to acknowledge ONAP’s prior director, Jeff Crowley, for his stellar leadership over the past three years.

    This is a transformative time for HIV prevention and care: recent research breakthroughs in testing and treatment mean that a future AIDS-free generation is a real possibility. While there is much to be done, it is remarkable how far we’ve come.

    I’m especially grateful that my first day on the job included a White House commemoration of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This meeting of community members, researchers, and Federal representatives focused on the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women, and gender-related disparities. We reviewed data that show women account for nearly a quarter of new HIV cases in the United States, and that the majority of these cases are among women of color. Especially concerning is that HIV infection rates among black women are over fifteen times higher than in white women; rates among Hispanics/Latinas are five times higher.

    The meeting included the announcement of the formation of two important working groups to make recommendations for moving forward on this important issue. The inter-agency Federal working group will be co-chaired by me and Lynn Rosenthal, the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, and will comprise of members of multiple Federal agencies to ensure an interdisciplinary and coordinated approach. A second group comprised of a diversity of members from the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) will also meet soon. I’d like to thank personally the meeting’s organizers, speakers and participants for an inspirational event.

    The working groups’ recommendations will include informing the multiple current Federal efforts addressing the HIV care and treatment needs of women and girls. Some examples are the CDC’s “Take Charge. Take the Test” initiative to increase HIV testing among women; the NIH-supported WIHS study, the longest ongoing women’s cohort study ever in the United States; and the expansion of HIV testing and linkage to care efforts at Family Planning Clinics. Perhaps most exciting, in 2011 alone, the Affordable Care Act expanded coverage of preventive services to 54 million people, including more than 20 million women.

  • Commemorating National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

    On Wednesday, March 14th at 8:30a.m. EST, please join the White House as we commemorate National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.  This multi-agency event will discuss the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women, and gender related health disparities. Speakers and panelists will examine the juncture of these three important issues that impact women’s lives both domestically and globally.

    You can watch the event live at:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/live.You can also join the conversation on Twitter by following @AIDSgov and @PEPFAR and by using #NWGHAAD.

    White House Meeting on the Intersection of HIV/AIDS, Violence against Women and Gender Related Health Disparities

    • Welcome and Event Overview
    • Global Announcement
    • Framing the Data: A Presentation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    • Research Update: A Brief Update on Ongoing Research by the National Institutes of Health
    • Panel Discussion: Linkage between HIV/AIDS and violence against women; a discussion of these issues and gender related health disparities in the global/domestic context.
    • Domestic Announcement
    • Global and Domestic Synergy
    • Closing Remarks

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

  • Commemorating National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

    On this, the 12th annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, I remember my sister-in-law’s fight with the disease. Tragically, she did not win that fight – she left behind a devastated husband and five-year old daughter. But it is in her memory, and the memory of all the friends and loved ones we have lost, that we vow to keep working toward the day when HIV/AIDS is history.

    This past December, on World AIDS Day, President Obama spoke about the United States’ commitment to ending HIV/AIDS. In a speech at George Washington University, he told the audience, “Make no mistake, we are going to win this fight.  But the fight is not over … not by a long shot.” 

    Sadly, this is especially true in the African-American community. Black Americans represent 12 percent of the U.S. population, but they account for 44 percent of new HIV infections. Among young black gay men alone, infections have increased by nearly 50 percent in just three years, and black women account for the largest share of HIV infections among women. We each must do our part by getting tested regularly, and by educating those in our community about what they can do to help end the epidemic.

    President Obama is committed to doing his part as well. In 2010, he released the nation’s first comprehensive HIV/AIDS plan. Together with Secretary Clinton, he has helped assemble a coalition of governments, healthcare professionals, and service providers. They have set a goal that would have been unthinkable just a few decades ago: an AIDS-free generation, in which virtually all children are born HIV-free, and prevention tools help them stay HIV-free throughout their lives.

  • Conversations on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from blog.aids.gov.

    February 7, 2012 marks the 12th year for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD), a national community mobilization initiative that focuses on promoting HIV education, testing, involvement, and treatment to African Americans, who are disproportionately at risk for HIV/AIDS. As part of the Federal observance of NBHAAD, I spoke with three people who are helping to lead the response to HIV/AIDS in the African American community. They included:

    Each of the interviewees had an opportunity to discuss how NBHAAD can make communities more effective in responding to HIV/AIDS.

  • Recognizing National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness day

    In recognition of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day – February 7, Dr. Kevin Fenton, Director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention released the following message:

    On this National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we have greater opportunity than ever before to reverse the HIV epidemic in Black America and the nation as a whole.

    Today, we have a National HIV/AIDS Strategy that directs the nation to focus its prevention efforts on communities at greatest risk, including African-Americans – the racial group most severely impacted by HIV.  We have an African-American community that is mobilized like never before, with many of the nation’s longstanding black national organizations making HIV prevention a key priority.

    Over the past several years, we have also witnessed tremendous breakthroughs in HIV prevention that can help alter the course of the epidemic. Rates of HIV testing are growing and are at an all-time high. Yet research now shows that early treatment not only provides improved health and much longer lives for people living with HIV, but it also can reduce their risk of passing the virus to partners by 96 percent. And new prevention tools – like a daily pill – have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of HIV infection in some high-risk populations, when combined with other prevention measures.

    Now despite these important advances, the fight against this disease is far from over. The harsh reality is that today, even in the face of great hope and promise, African-American communities continue to be devastated by HIV.  Although only 14 percent of the U.S. population, African-Americans account for almost half of those living and dying with HIV/ AIDS in this country.

    And HIV touches every corner of the black community and the impact of HIV has been especially devastating among black youth.   Approximately 40 percent of new infections among blacks are now occurring among those aged 13 and 29 years. Young black gay and bisexual men are the most severely affected, experiencing a nearly 50 percent increase in new HIV infections over the past few years. In addition, HIV is now the third leading cause of death among black women in the prime of their lives – those aged 35 to 44 years.

    Now to turn the tide on this epidemic, we must confront the complex social and environmental conditions that help fuel the HIV epidemic in African-American communities. Lack of access to health care plays an important role.  We know that those who don’t have the means to see a doctor may not get an HIV test or HIV treatment until it’s far too late. We also know that nearly one in five African-Americans are without health insurance.

    Where you live and where you choose your sexual partners also has a significant impact on your HIV risk. Higher rates of HIV that exist in black communities and the fact that African-Americans tend to select partners who are of the same race increases the likelihood of being exposed to HIV infection with each sexual encounter.

    Homophobia and stigma – far too prevalent in many communities – prevents too many in the black community from getting tested, and if HIV positive, from getting treated.

    HIV prevention in black communities remains one of our top public health priorities.  Last year, for example, CDC invested more than half of its HIV prevention budget to fight HIV among African-Americans. We’ve expanded initiatives to reach more African-Americans with HIV testing and increased the number and reach of HIV prevention programs in black communities.  We are working with our partners, like those in the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative, to launch campaigns and undertake activities aimed at increasing HIV testing and awareness among black women and black gay and bisexual men, among other groups.

    Yet together we have much more work to do.  Today, I call on the faith community, the public health and community leaders, teachers, parents and business leaders – both within and outside black communities – to maximize the powerful tools we now have at our fingertips and to work together to bring this epidemic to an end.

    I also urge each of you to do your part. Get tested for HIV.  If you are sexually active, use condoms consistently and correctly to protect yourself and your partners. If you are a person living with HIV, get and stay in treatment and take the necessary steps to prevent HIV transmission to your partners.  You can learn more at www.actagainstaids.org. We can end this crisis. And we must remember that HIV is completely preventable. By working together, we can put an end to this epidemic in our lifetimes.

    For more information, visit AIDS.gov

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

  • Persistence, Promise, and Hope for the End: A New Year’s Message

    Ed. Note: Cross-posted from blog.AIDS.gov

    In the tumult of the holiday shopping, seasonal traffic delays, and endless bowls of eggnog, it was easy to miss the news that Science—one of the world’s leading scientific research journals—had chosen an HIV-related clinical trial as its 2011 Breakthrough of the Year. I caught that news while trying to wrap up some last-minute items, and, later, I took a moment to reflect on this announcement. This was perhaps the first time in many years that Science magazine had featured an issue related to HIV/AIDS research so prominently on its cover. I would like to highlight the importance of that piece of news and share some perspective on what it might mean for the future.

    In the December 23 issue, Science said: “The year 2011 saw scientific research that stretched from the farthest reaches of the universe to the deepest mysteries of the cell. Following a yearly tradition, Science‘s editors and news staff have selected one Scientific Breakthrough of the Year and nine runners-up.” Their choice was the HPTN 052 clinical trial, an international HIV-prevention trial sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).