Yesterday, the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) released the National HIV/AIDS Strategy – a comprehensive plan for fighting HIV in our country.
In his remarks at a reception with HIV/AIDS policy experts and activists, the President acknowledged that as a Nation, we have come a long way in the battle against the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic, but that we still have much work left to do:
From activists, researchers, community leaders who’ve waged a battle against AIDS for so long, including many of you here in this room, we have learned what we can do to stop the spread of the disease. We’ve learned what we can do to extend the lives of people living with it. And we’ve been reminded of our obligations to one another – obligations that, like the virus itself, transcend barriers of race or station or sexual orientation or faith or nationality.
So the question is not whether we know what to do, but whether we will do it. Whether we will fulfill those obligations; whether we will marshal our resources and the political will to confront a tragedy that is preventable.
All of us are here because we are committed to that cause. We’re here because we believe that while HIV transmission rates in this country are not as high as they once were, every new case is one case too many. We’re here because we believe in an America where those living with HIV/AIDS are not viewed with suspicion, but treated with respect; where they’re provided the medications and health care they need; where they can live out their lives as fully as their health allows.
The President also lauded the bottom up approach taken in developing the Strategy:
In recent months, we’ve held 14 community discussions. We’ve spoken with over 4,200 people. We’ve received over 1,000 recommendations on the White House website, devising an approach not from the top down but from the bottom up.
And today, we’re releasing our National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which is the product — which is the product of these conversations, and conversations with HIV-positive Americans and health care providers, with business leaders, with faith leaders, and the best policy and scientific minds in our country.
The National HIV/AIDS strategy focuses on three major goals: reducing the number of new infections, increasing access to care and optimizing health outcomes for people living with HIV and AIDS, and reducing health-related disparities. The President emphasized that the federal government cannot accomplish these three goals alone:
So reducing new HIV infections; improving care for people living with HIV/AIDS; narrowing health disparities — these are the central goals of our national strategy. They must be pursued hand in hand with our global public health strategy to roll back the pandemic beyond our borders. And they must be pursued by a government that is acting as one. So we need to make sure all our efforts are coordinated within the federal government and across federal, state and local governments – because that’s how we’ll achieve results that let Americans live longer and healthier lives.
So, yes, government has to do its part. But our ability to combat HIV/AIDS doesn’t rest on government alone. It requires companies to contribute funding and expertise to the fight. It requires us to use every source of information — from TV to film to the Internet — to promote AIDS awareness. It requires community leaders to embrace all — and not just some — who are affected by the disease. It requires each of us to act responsibly in our own lives, and it requires all of us to look inward — to ask not only how we can end this scourge, but also how we can root out the inequities and the attitudes on which this scourge thrives.