The closing panel of the 2010 National Summit on HIV Diagnosis, Prevention, and Access to Care provided an in-depth discussion of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) from a variety of unique perspectives. The session began with Dr. Anthony Fauci from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases providing a comprehensive overview of the fundamental role of research in supporting the goals of the NHAS. Dr. Fauci’s presentation reminded the audience of the major research advances that have taken place since the initial description of AIDS in 1981 – not the least of which has been the development of a host of highly active anti-viral medications. Dr. Fauci also highlighted important gaps in our current prevention and treatment knowledge base that will need to be addressed in order to achieve the goals of the NHAS.
Following Dr. Fauci’s presentation, Mr. Jeffrey Crowley, Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) and Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health (ASH), shared their thoughts about how the Federal government can work effectively both within and across Federal departments. Both referred to the December 9, 2010 date when operational plans from HHS and other “lead agencies” will be due to the White House. Also, both acknowledge that reducing HIV incidence in the United States and improving HIV treatment and care will require the strong support of all sectors of society, not just the Federal government.
Following the Federal perspective, a lively discussion took place involving the following panelists: Mr. A. Cornelius Baker from the National Black Gay Advocacy Coalition , Dr. Judith Auerbach from the San Francisco AIDS Foundation , Dr. Wayne Duffus from the South Carolina Department of Health, and Ms. Jenny McFarlane from the Texas Department of Health. Ms. Susan Dentzer , the editor of the journal Health Affairs , asked the panelists to reflect on what, from their vantage point, will be required to support successful implementation of the NHAS. The panelists raised several overlapping issues, including: the need for a serious examination of the current alignment of Federal HIV/AIDS resources; ongoing monitoring of NHAS metrics and transparent reporting back to the American public on our progress; more flexibility to state, local, and community partners who are implementing Federally funded HIV/AIDS programs; the purposeful incorporation of lessons learned from comprehensive HIV/AIDS care into the ongoing implementation of healthcare reform; a careful examination of the current gaps in the knowledge required to achieve NHAS goals; a strong push to implement routine HIV testing in healthcare settings; and ongoing efforts to proactively address HIV/AIDS-related stigma.
Even considering the many issues and challenges we face, the panelists were positive in their endorsement that the vision of the NHAS can be achieved if we work together collectively and are all willing to make changes in the areas of policy, program, research, and funding. As one panelist put it, we must be willing to look carefully and honestly at all of our efforts to ensure that they are paying-off in terms of improved health outcomes.