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Gallo calls for national HIV plan
by Bob Roehr
Originally printed 11/13/2008 (Issue 1646 - Between The Lines News)
"We must actively address the growing HIV/AIDS pandemic in the United States," said Robert C. Gallo, the co-discoverer of the HIV virus, in a column in the Nov. 16 edition of the Washington Post.
The head of the Institute of Human Virology in Baltimore said the same high rates of infection are seen in poor neighborhoods in the inner cities of America as are seen in the developing world.
Gallo knows from experience that PEPFAR has allowed millions of people in Africa to begin treatment for HIV. He is calling for a similar "plan for America's inner cities [that] would help to neutralize and diminish the number of people contracting HIV and the number dying of AIDS."
The program should support clinical infrastructure for the diagnosis and treatment of HIV in the inner cities, along with the staff and drugs necessary for their success.
He made the comparison with the billions of dollars being spent on bioterrorism, "But in the past seven years, more Americans have been the victims of HIV/AIDS than have been affected or killed by any bioterrorist attack." HIV clinics also would strengthen the healthcare capacity to deal with any such bioterrorist emergency.
In addition to better serving US residents, such a program also would be "sending a message to the world that America recognizes that it is not different from other countries and that we too have an HIV/AIDS pandemic."
AIDS advocates are pressing the transition team and incoming Obama administration to quickly implement a number of changes. Among them are lifting the ban on federal funding of syringe exchange programs; defunding abstinence-only education programs; and fully funding prevention and treatment programs. They also recognize the importance of overall healthcare reform to persons living with HIV.
The coalition 100 Days to Fight AIDS is planning a march to the White House and the transition team office on Nov. 20. It is pushing the administration for action within the first 100 days of taking office. More information can be found at http://www.100daystofightaids.org