A new domestic AIDS policy rolled out by the White House on Tuesday looks for new ways to educate Americans about the deadly and incurable virus, cut new infections by 25 percent and get more patients treated quickly.
As an immediate down payment, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced $30 million to develop combination prevention methods. It will also support improved surveillance, expanded and targeted testing, and other activities, the White House said in a statement.
The plan directs government agencies to work together more closely to focus spending where it is most needed and identify where new spending would do the most good -- for instance, among hard-hit communities of blacks, Hispanics, drug users and gay and bisexual men.
It urges the Food and Drug Administration to make review of new HIV tests a priority and said HIV patients need housing and other support in addition to medical care.
We can't expect this to be solved by a huge infusion of new resources, Sebelius told a briefing.
Government departments have 150 days to come up with their plans for following the new plan, said Jeff Crowley, director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy.
It is not intended to be a comprehensive list of all the things we need to do to fight HIV, he said. The plan is available at http://aids.gov/federal-resources/policies/national-hiv-aids-strategy/.
Simultaneously, the U.N. AIDS program published a new report calling for a simpler approach to tackling HIV worldwide to drastically cut the number of AIDS-related deaths and help to stop HIV from spreading.
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.
ACCESS TO CARE
The 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 be able to get care quickly, including 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 and generate billions a year for makers such as Gilead Sciences Inc, Bristol-Myers and Abbott Labs. AIDS is transmitted during sex, in blood and on needles and in breast milk.
Public funding should go to geographic areas with the highest infection rates and doctors should be encouraged to treat HIV patients, the plan says.
AIDS activists were worried about the prospects that Obama would add much to the $19 billion the United States spends a year on domestic HIV prevention, care, and research.
The strategy itself is just the paper it written on. The more detailed plans that are being mandated, the agencies have got to come through, Chris Collins, public policy director at The Foundation for AIDS Research or AMFAR, said in a telephone interview.
It doesn't speak to the need for more resources and that is one of the two critical issues.
Julie Scofield, executive director of the National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors, said she would welcome better coordination on the federal level.
Right now state health departments and community-based organizations really have so many disparate requirements and rules and reporting that it really ties them up in knots more than it should, Scofield said in a telephone interview.
But she also said she would be watching for more detail. In the past, there been plans that then get shelved and then there is no follow-up, she said.
(Editing by Bill Trott)