Today is a remarkable day. Today, we come together, as a global community, across continents, faiths and cultures, to renew our commitment to ending the AIDS pandemic – once and for all.
–President Obama, December 1, 2011


In commemorating World AIDS Day, it’s good to take a look at where we stand. A lot of releases are hitting my inbox today, including several from the White House. First, a frank look at the epidemic that airs on public TV today. In The Life Media:

Tonight, public television stations across the country will begin airing 30 Years Positive, an episode of the award-winning documentary series IN THE LIFE looking back at multiple decades of media coverage of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The episode also premieres online on World AIDS Day, held annually for the global community to gather in the fight against HIV/AIDS, to show support for people living with HIV, and to remember those who have passed.

30 years after the first AIDS case was reported in the United States, more than a million Americans are HIV-positive. The most recent statistics report that one in five HIV-positive Americans don’t know they are HIV-positive, and that 56,000 are newly infected each year. However, mainstream media coverage has given little attention to the epidemic’s ongoing impact. Says Marjorie J. Hill, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of GMHC, in the episode: “We’ve been able to stabilize the HIV epidemic – not stop, not reduce – stabilize.”

The episode concludes with a frank discussion about HIV prevention and the National AIDS Strategy featuring Gun Hill Road actress Harmony Santana and Reverend Charles King, CEO of Housing Works, who criticizes the White House for inaction on the epidemic, saying: “I feel that President Obama needs to be called on HIV and AIDS just like President Bush needed to be called on it.”

Watch IN THE LIFE’s 30 Years Positive here: http://www.itlmedia.org/

The President has issued a proclamation (read the full document here); I’m sharing a key snippet:

My Administration is taking action to turn the corner on the HIV/AIDS pandemic by investing in research that promises new and proven methods to prevent infection and better therapies for people living with HIV.  In the past year, the National Institutes of Health has reported important progress.  We now know that treatment of HIV not only improves clinical outcomes, but can also dramatically reduce the risk of transmission.  Studies on the use of antiretroviral medications to prevent infection of HIV-negative individuals show promising results.  And research is ongoing to devise new prevention methods that may one day offer innovative ways to prevent the spread of HIV, like microbicides that can curb the risk of infection in women.  By pursuing the next breakthrough treatment in the fight against HIV, continuing research to develop a vaccine, and incorporating new scientific tools into our programs, we are taking important steps toward an AIDS-free generation.

To combat the HIV epidemic in the United States, we are implementing the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy in our country’s history, which calls for strong, coordinated policy initiatives, enhanced HIV/AIDS education, collaboration across the Federal Government, and robust engagement with individuals, communities, and businesses across America.  As part of these efforts, we are embracing the best science available to prevent new HIV infections, and we are testing new approaches to integrating housing, prevention, care, and substance abuse and mental health services related to HIV/AIDS.  We are implementing the Affordable Care Act, which mandates new consumer protections and new options for purchasing health insurance for all Americans by 2014, including those with HIV.  We are also striving to secure employment opportunities for people living with HIV by working to end discrimination based on HIV status.

In light of that, the Obama administration has released a lengthy document outlining the planned efforts, Fact Sheet: The Beginning of the End of AIDS. A key section (definitely click over for the full text):

Creating a Coordinated National Response to the HIV Epidemic

National HIV/AIDS Strategy: The National HIV/AIDS Strategy is the Nation’s first comprehensive plan to fight the domestic epidemic. The Strategy provides a roadmap for moving the nation forward in addressing the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic with clear and measurable targets to be achieved by 2015.  The development of the NHAS is an important effort to reflect on what is and is not working in order to improve the outcomes that we receive for our public and private investments.

  • The Federal Implementation Plan. In conjunction with the Strategy, the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) released the Federal Implementation Plan, which outlines initial critical actions to be taken by Federal agencies in 2010 and 2011.
  • The Agency Operational Plans. Released in February 2011, these plans detail activities and new initiatives across lead federal agencies to implement the Strategy.
  • Ongoing Efforts to Improve Coordination across Government. The Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Health was tasked with improving operational coordination across key departments and agencies, including HHS, Housing and Urban Development, Departments of Justice and Labor, the Veterans’ Administration, and the Social Security Administration.

  • Engaging Communities. The Obama Administration has taken extraordinary steps to engage the public.  While developing the Strategy, the White House Office of National AIDS Policy hosted 14 community discussions across the country and organized a series of expert meetings on HIV-specific topics. This fall ONAP convened five “Dialogues” across the country to support state and local implementation of the Strategy.

Learn more at: http://aids.gov/world-aids-day/