Last fall, the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) asked Americans to give us their input for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which will be released in the coming months. From the beginning, ONAP recognized that community feedback would be invaluable to our National HIV/AIDS Strategy development so we hosted 14 community discussions and meetings throughout the United States, in addition to launching an online portal for Americans to send their comments directly to the White House. In the end, we received over 1000 written responses from nearly every state and U.S. territory, from people affected by or living with HIV, from men, women, and transgender individuals, from young and old, and from respondents of various ethnicities, racial backgrounds and sexual orientation.
Despite the diversity in setting and respondents, a core set of common themes emerged across all of the recommendations. Today, we are releasing a report of the major themes that we heard from the public.
Throughout this process we heard that people want to bring the issue of HIV/AIDS back into the forefront of the American psyche through efforts such as social marketing campaigns and comprehensive HIV prevention and education for youth, injection drug users, communities of color, and gay and bisexual men. Access to care was also commonly discussed. Specifically, expanding support services for people living with HIV and the need to diagnose and treat co-occurring conditions such as Hepatitis, substance use, mental health, and markers of economic instability (e.g. housing, joblessness).
Even when access to treatment is available, the stigma surrounding an HIV diagnosis may be too great for people to get tested or enroll in care. We heard from many people living with HIV who spoke about the stigma associated with being HIV-positive and its effect on their daily lives. Many people discussed the ways in which stigma and discrimination contributed to HIV-related racial, geographic, and gender disparities. People also described personal accounts of discrimination and stigma from providers and difficulties in accessing a range of services, including dental care and prenatal care.
Last, many expressed the importance of coordinating HIV prevention and treatment activities across the Federal government. Many also expressed the importance of evaluating current HIV prevention and care efforts and making sure that these evaluation activities help guide Federal, state and local activities and funding.
These recommendations are only a subset of the input that we had received and many more recommendations for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy are detailed in the community discussions report. Not all of the recommendations, however, will appear in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. To be effective, the strategy must include a small number of high payoff items that will address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States. Nevertheless, we intend for this community report to provide a baseline for the status of the domestic epidemic and serve as a planning tool and resource for Federal, State and local agencies. We are grateful for the many Americans who helped make this report possible and for the many insightful recommendations that will go a long way in ensuring that the National HIV/AIDS Strategy is a success.