Co-authored by Amy Palilonis, Presidential Management Fellow, AIDS.gov
Last week we sponsored a webinar/conference call in advance of National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) — June 27 — for Federal staff and grantees who work with domestic HIV/AIDS programs. Panelists on the call included senior HIV leaders from across the Federal government. Over 1,000 listening sites (representing well over 2000 listeners) took part in the call. Today we want to share some highlights from the call.
Dr. Kevin Fenton, Director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, began the panel with an overview of CDC’s Expanded HIV Testing Initiative, which was launched in 2007. Dr. Fenton said, “We cannot be complacent about HIV — the disease is still deadly and serious…HIV testing is key to ending the epidemic… the power to fight HIV is in the hands of every American.”
Dr. Bernie Branson, Associate Director for Laboratory Diagnostics at the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, CDC, then provided an update on the status of HIV testing in the U.S., and outlined the future goals and objectives related to domestic HIV testing. Dr. Branson told those listening that “HIV testing needs to be as commonplace as cholesterol testing.”
Mr. Christopher Bates, Executive Director of PACHA, highlighted why HIV testing is important from the Council’s perspective. Dr. Deborah Parham Hopson, Associate Administrator for HIV/AIDS at HRSA, spoke about the critical link between HIV testing and comprehensive care and treatment, stating that testing is important because it helps decrease high risk behavior, and can reduce the likelihood of HIV transmission.
Ms. Beverly Watts Davis, Senior Advisor on Substance Abuse at SAMHSA, shared why HIV testing is important as it relates to substance abuse and mental health. Next, Ms. Barbara Edwards from CMS explained how HIV testing relates to the mission of Medicare and Medicaid.
Dr. Carl Dieffenbach, Director of the Division of AIDS at NIAID, concluded the first part of the call with an overview of “TLC-Plus” which is a pilot program of expanded, voluntary HIV testing, along with managed links to medical care and treatment for HIV-infected people. The pilot will determine if this is a feasible and effective approach that could be implemented more broadly in the U.S. to reduce HIV incidence.
These speakers, along with Ms. Lisa Neel, Program Analyst at IHS, and Dr. Maggie Czarnogorski, Deputy Director of Clinical Public Health Programs at the VA, took many of YOUR questions about HIV testing.
The thoughtfulness of the questions for this wide array of Federal leaders was inspiring. As we move past National HIV Testing Day and towards the upcoming release of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, continuing this type of dialogue about HIV testing is critical to an enhanced response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S.
Want to hear the full conversation from “The Current and Future State of HIV Testing in the U.S.”? The audio podcast and transcript are available on AIDS.gov. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments!
Want to know more about what happened on June 27th – National HIV Testing Day? Check out our upcoming blog post.