As 2011 draws to a close and we look ahead with anticipation to the New Year, I want to honor the members of the HIV/AIDS community for their passion in advancing toward our goal of achieving an AIDS-free generation.
Through our collective commitment to implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) and the Action Plan for Viral Hepatitis, our nation saw progress this year to match this passion. We have moved closer to the Strategy’s goals of reducing new HIV infections, improving access to HIV care, improving health outcomes for people living with HIV, and reducing HIV-related health disparities. Furthermore, by tackling the silent epidemic of hepatitis, we are helping so many co-infected while addressing another major public health challenge.
The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) was tasked by the NHAS to improve coordination of HIV/AIDS across the Department of Health and Human Services, and with other Federal agencies and departments. As a result of this new role, my office had the opportunity to work alongside a talented and committed cadre of Federal colleagues who stepped forward to support the Strategy’s goals and outcomes. Together, we have strengthened and coordinated HIV/AIDS activities across agencies and departments; better aligned resources to address the epidemic; promoted the “12 Cities” project as a way to enhance integration of Federal HIV/AIDS programs; moved toward common reporting metrics; and, clarified a path toward achieving better outcomes. In addition, our engagement during the past year with a broad array of non-Federal partners, including those from state and local governments, academia, the faith community, the business and philanthropic sectors, and the media, has unified and revitalized the national commitment to HIV/AIDS.
This year also marked the 30th year since the first reported cases of AIDS, a milestone that makes us reflect on our remarkable journey since those dark days when HIV infection was poorly understood and almost always fatal. Remarkably, three decades of scientific progress in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, coupled with the development of new policies, programs, and partnerships, has brought us to a pivotal moment where we can envision an AIDS-free generation.
In the coming year, we will continue to strengthen these efforts along with our Federal and non-Federal partners, by taking advantage of recent scientific discoveries, and implementing policies and programs that support HIV prevention, testing, and treatment efforts. The XIX International AIDS Conference set for July 2012 in Washington, DC, will be an exciting opportunity for us to join in a global effort to assess our progress on HIV/AIDS, evaluate recent scientific developments, and collectively chart a course forward toward an AIDS-free generation.
As I look to the challenges ahead, what motivates me most is the courage of the first patients with HIV/AIDS for whom I cared during my medical training in Boston all those years ago. Those patients, as well as those currently living with HIV/AIDS and advocates worldwide, continue to inspire our critical efforts to combat this devastating epidemic. By working together in the coming year, we can honor the legacy of those who have gone before us and make the HIV/AIDS Strategy’s life-saving goals a reality in the years to come.