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by Jessica Carreras
Several local leaders in Michigan’s HIV/AIDS advocacy community have voiced excitement over the July 13 release of the Obama administration’s National AIDS Strategy, and yet are quick to note that good plans don’t always live up to the goals they set.
The strategy, released after months of collecting commentary and data from communities and organizations in the fight against the disease, identifies three main objectives: prevention of new infections, proper treatment for those living with HIV/AIDS and reduction of health disparities in high-risk communities, such as blacks and gay men.
However, notes HIV/AIDS Resource Center President and CEO Jimena Loveluck, one of the biggest flaws in the plan is the same one HIV activists often face: a lack of money.
“We also know from experience that it is often difficult to achieve outcomes like those set out in the NAS without additional funding, and this is probably one of the most disappointing aspects of the plan and an obstacle to implementation,” Loveluck noted. “While we can certainly work to use the resources we do have as effectively as possible to target those most at risk for HIV, expansion of prevention efforts and education for all Americans about HIV/AIDS will be hard to achieve without additional funding.”
Funding, adds Michigan AIDS Coalition CEO Helen Hicks, often tops the list of needs before prevention efforts for HIV service organizations. “In a recent survey sent to many of Michigan’s AIDS service agencies, the No. 1 concern was lack of funding for ASOs, and of the top 10 issues that needed to be addressed, prevention made the top five.”
The strategy suggests that necessary funds will come from increased collaboration and fundraising efforts. Loveluck said that is ideal, but unlikely. “The NAS accurately states that this effort will require greater collaboration and cannot be done by the government alone, but with AIDS philanthropic efforts dwindling across the country and locally, where will the resources for the implementation of this plan come from?”
Still, despite lingering questions and gaping holes in the plan, Michigan HIV/AIDS leaders are applauding the National AIDS Strategy. MAC COO and Ferndale Mayor Craig Covey called it “a welcome relief” from the Bush administration’s blatant disregard for the issue in the U.S., especially in regard to the long overdue recognition of a need for focus on comprehensive sex education and increased prevention efforts for men who have sex with men.
“This new direction seeks to use best practices and science to renew the fight against AIDS,” said Covey, “and should help to steer away from the misguided and unsuccessful strategy that focused on abstinence only.
“It’s just what the doctor ordered.”
Loveluck said the three goals came as “no surprise” to activists who have been working toward those objectives for 20 or 30 years, but were welcome words to hear from the administration. “We applaud the NAS for prioritizing evidence-based strategies, for emphasizing human rights and reducing stigma, for targeting resources to those at greatest risk for HIV while promoting HIV/AIDS education for all Americans, for setting realistic milestones and targets, and for promoting collaboration and public/private partnerships,” she added.
“We hope that the NAS will prove to be a mobilizing tool for our country and for our local communities.”