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Sebelius addresses CDC National HIV Prevention Conference.

The 2009 National HIV Prevention Conference was just held in Atlanta, with over 3000 attendees.

The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, addressed the body.

At Conference, Sec’y Sebelius Confronts Urgency of HIV Prevention

The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services addressed a convention of health experts who have convened in Atlanta for this year’s National HIV Prevention Conference.

Secretary Sebelius announced that the CDC had started a new program.

Key in her remarks was this statement (my bold):

“Act Against AIDS is a $45 million investment over five years to let Americans know that the threat of HIV/AIDS isn’t going away,” the Secretary said. “That effort will focus on underserved communities to include racial/ethnic minorities, women and gay and bisexual men.”

Added Secretary Sebelius, “We’re targeting our efforts at high-risk groups like African Americans.

“Today, African Americans make up just over a tenth of the population. But they account for nearly half of new HIV infections.

“One in 30 African-American women will be diagnosed in her lifetime. One in sixteen African-American men will be diagnosed with HIV.

“In 2005, the CDC reported that in five major cities, almost half of all African-American gay men were HIV-positive,” the Secretary went on. “The situation is also dire for Latinos.”

Sebelius invited the audience to think about the problem in a different way. “Imagine if it were half the straight white women in Atlanta. Wouldn’t we be calling this a national emergency? Shouldn’t we be?

“That’s how we at HHS are treating it.”

She also addressed the entry/visit ban:

The Secretary also promised that the so-called “HIV Entry Ban” that bars foreign nationals from visiting or emigrating to the U.S., and which has come under sharp criticism, would finally and definitively be eliminated before year’s end.

Although the ban, enacted in the 1980s, was struck down by legislation signed by then-President Bush before he left office, immigration regulations still present a bureaucratic hurdle to HIV+ individuals seeking to enter the United States. This rule led to 60 Canadian individuals who intended to go to a June conference on HIV/AIDS in Washington, D.C., being barred entry.

Secretary Sebelius noted, “The more accepted people with HIV/AIDS feel, the more open they are about their HIV status. The more open people can be about their HIV status, the more likely other people are to get tested. The more likely people are to get tested, the slower the spread of HIV.

She announced the impending appointment of Dr. Helene Gayle.

HHS Secretary Sebelius Announces Intent to Appoint Dr. Helene Gayle as Chair of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS at 2009 National HIV Prevention Conference

“HIV remains a major threat to the health of our nation, and when one of our fellow citizens becomes infected with HIV every nine-and-a-half minutes, the epidemic affects all Americans,” said President Obama. “As we organize numerous ways to engage the American people in confronting the HIV epidemic in our country, the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS will play a critical role in developing and implementing a National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Dr. Gayle brings an intense commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS and unique experience in advancing public health. I look forward to her leadership and counsel.”

“Dr. Gayle is an internationally acclaimed leader with a long history of working to end the epidemic both around the world and here at home in the United States. It is only fitting that we are announcing Dr. Gayle’s appointment today at the 2009 National HIV Prevention Conference since she sponsored the first HIV Prevention Conference when she was at the CDC,” said Secretary Sebelius. “We are hopeful that the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, under her leadership, will serve as a platform to share our plans and insights with the public health community and the public and serve as a vehicle to carry their ideas and input back to the Administration.”


Currently Director of CARE Here is a brief bio:

Helene was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. She received her B.A. from Barnard College of Columbia University, New York. She received her M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and M.P.H. from Johns Hopkins University. Helene is board certified in Pediatrics, completing a residency in Pediatric Medicine at the Children’s Hospital National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. After completing her residency, she entered the Epidemic Intelligence Service, a training program in epidemiology, at CDC, followed by a residency in Preventive Medicine and then remained at CDC for a career that spanned 20 years and a variety of positions. She rose through the ranks at CDC to become the first director of the Director for the National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention, (NCHSTP), at that time CDC’s largest Center. At CDC, she was involved in studying problems of malnutrition in children in the United States and internationally, evaluating and implementing child survival programs in Africa and working on HIV/AIDS research, programs and policy. Her work on HIV/AIDS issues has focused on women, children, adolescents, U.S. minorities and international populations. On assignment from CDC, Helene also served as the AIDS Coordinator and Chief of the HIV/AIDS Division for the US Agency for International Development (USAID). She has served as a health consultant to international agencies including the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the World Bank and UNAIDS and has worked extensively in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. She also served as the Director of CDC’s Washington Office. Prior to assuming her current position, she was the Director of the HIV, TB and Reproductive Health Program for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, responsible for research, program and policies related to HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, reproductive health issues and tuberculosis for the foundation.

Helene has published numerous articles on public health, especially related to HIV/AIDS and has received many awards for her scientific and public health contributions. She attained the rank of Rear Admiral (Assistant Surgeon General) in the US Public Health Service. She is also on the boards of the Institute of Medicine and the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Bay Area Reporter takes a more critical view of government promises and efforts:

No new money pledged in US AIDS fight pointing to cutbacks in California and other states:

Many states are cutting back their support for AIDS care and prevention, including California, where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger cut nearly $60 million from the state Office of AIDS. Crowley said the administration has directed economic stimulus money to Medicaid and community health centers “but there are limits to how much the federal government can respond … we just don’t have the capacity to backfill all of the needs at the state and local level.”

They also covered statements from other members of the Obama administration:

Jeff Crowley,
director of the Office of National AIDS Policy at the White House, said he has begun work on developing a national HIV/AIDS strategy, due by the end of the year. He sees it not so much as a product but a process, “a national conversation that asks the question, where are we with the epidemic in 2009?”

“The president’s goals are reducing HIV incidence; getting all people living with HIV into care; and reducing HIV-related health disparities,” Crowley said. The focus will be on those most affected by the epidemic – gay and bisexual men, and African Americans. “I start with the idea that we are doing lots of things right,” Crowley added. “How can we sharpen our focus and do a better job?”

Toward that end, he held the first of 14 scheduled town hall meetings in Atlanta. “This is the moment we have been waiting for,” said Kevin Fenton, the openly gay director of AIDS programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “A national plan should have measurable goals, measurable objectives, tied to resources,” Fenton said. “We have seen too many strategic plans which have been developed without any new resources or without looking critically at how we leverage existing resources to ensure that they are targeted to areas where they are most needed or we can have the greatest impact.”

The fight for National health care becomes more and more critical for those people living with HIV/AIDS.  HIV is considered to be a pre-existing condition by most insurers.  Those persons who are working and living with HIV who surpass the current standards to qualify for ADAP (AIDS Drug Assistance Program) are faced with financial ruin.

Here is criteria from Illinois ADAP:

to qualify financially [anticipated gross annual income must be at or below 400 percent of the current federal poverty level for the size of the household: $41,600 for a household of one; $56,000 for a household of two] (gross income at or below 400 percent of the federal poverty level);

Sebelius addressed this issue:

“The President’s plan to expand coverage and improve our health insurance system has some clear benefits for Americans living with HIV/AIDS. “For example, it would end insurance company discrimination based on preexisting conditions, which would give people more insurance options,” Sebelius told the audience. “It would also cap out-of-pocket expenses, which can quickly add up even for people living with HIV who have health insurance.

“Reform will be helpful for Medicare beneficiaries with AIDS. Right now, the high cost of HIV medications leaves people with HIV/AIDS with income too high for the low-income subsidy with thousands of dollars of out-of-pocket expenses–or potentially treatment interruptions if they cannot pay for their drugs. “But as part of reform, we are working with the drug manufacturers to provide assistance to mitigate that coverage gap in the Medicare prescription drug program.”

The Secretary then gave an indication as to just how serious the problem of new HIV infections is in the U.S. “When you do the math on new HIV infections, it turns out that one American gets infected with HIV every nine and a half minutes.”That means that since I started talking, another two Americans have acquired this fatal and totally preventable disease.”

I have dear friends, with good jobs who cannot afford to get their meds and have resorted to the kindness of doctors, slipping them free samples each month, to keep them from developing resistance.

Please post any cutbacks you are aware of to HIV/AIDS funding in your state.  Contact your legislators.

Fight Back. Fight AIDS. Silence = Death.

Cross-posted at The Daily Kos