Unite behind US goal to stamp out AIDS by 2030
In his State of the Union address this week, President Donald J. Trump enunciated several policy proposals that ruffled more than a few feathers and undermined his central theme of unity in American government. Be it his renewed call for a border wall or his threat that meaningful legislation would be derailed by congressional investigation of him and his administration, the address did little to narrow the current cavernous partisan divide.
Yet lurking deep within the speech before a joint session of Congress and getting comparatively little press attention, however, rose one proposal that should unleash unbridled bipartisan backing.
The president called on Congress and the nation to unite behind a bold new initiative of his Department of Health and Human Services. That action plan challenges this country to completely wipe out all HIV and AIDS infections by the year 2030.
Knee-jerk reactors may cynically ask whether this is little more than pie-in-the-sky grandstanding from a president known to thrive on hyperbole. But no, Virginia, this initiative was not a product of a chief executive in search of a pleasantly populist sound bite in the nationally-televised address.
It was instead the result of a series of meetings conducted last summer by top leaders of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The president signed on to their detailed plan about two months ago.
And what a comprehensive, promising and keenly focused plan it is.
Its goal is to reduce new HIV infection rates by 75 percent within five years and by 90 percent within 10 years toward complete eradication of the disease that has claimed more than 700,000 American lives.
ELEMENTS OF THE HIV INITIATIVE
According to a fact sheet on the initiative formally known as “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America” released this week by the Department of Health and Human Services, the program has five major strategic planks. Among them:
Treatment: Implement programs to increase adherence to HIV medication, help people get back into HIV medical care and research innovative products that will make it easier for patients to access HIV medication.
Protection: Implement extensive provider training, patient awareness and efforts to expand access to medicines.
Response: Ensure that states and communities have the technological and personnel resources to investigate all related HIV cases to stop chains of transmission.
Diagnosis: Implement routine testing during key health care encounters.
HIV Health Force: A boots-on-the-ground workforce of culturally competent and committed public-health professionals that will carry out HIV elimination efforts in HIV hot spots and elsewhere.
These tools and strategies will be targeted primarily toward the 48 counties in the United States (including those surrounding Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati in Ohio) where the majority of HIV infections in the nation are occurring. We nonetheless urge some of those resources to spread into other areas, such as the Mahoning Valley, where HIV rates have been reported rising in recent years.
We also hope the president matches the magnitude of the HIV-elimination proposal with generous funding to support it in the 2020 fiscal year budget he will propose to Congress next month. Already, some skeptics point to a trend of decreasing financial support for AIDS initiatives from the federal government over the past two years as cause for concern over the viability of this new “Plan for America” mission.
Above all else, annihilation of the HIV virus in this country should be a mission that unites all of us, regardless of our political stripes.
If one harkens back to 1961, Republicans, Democrats and even socialists rallied around President John F. Kennedy’s self-proclaimed deadline to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
With similar can-do commitment and unwavering unity behind this noble cause, hopes can run high that the seemingly impossible dream of stamping out AIDS by 2030 likewise will be achieved.