Is Obama Over-Reaching With His New Strategy for HIV/AIDS?

July 14, 2010  |  

by Charing Ball

Yesterday, The Obama Administration officially unveiled its National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which seeks to reduce the number of new HIV-infection cases in the US by 25 percent in five years. The plan, which will receive $30 million for implementation, will partner federal agencies, local and state governments and health, faith-based, business and other local organizations to target prevention efforts on high-risk populations including the gay and the African-American communities.  The strategy will also help get medicines to 85 percent of new HIV/AIDS patients within three months of their diagnosis.

Currently, more than 1.1 million Americans live with HIV, with another 56,000 new cases occurring every year. For many in both the health-care profession and the HIV/AIDS activism community, this new strategy presents a renewed sense of urgency to a crisis that, unlike the disease, has laid dormant for years.

Besides the much needed awareness, the extra financial support could free up some much needed funding in cash-strapped states, where tough-calls have forced cuts in many HIV/AIDS prevention and support programs. But as noble as the strategy may be (and believe me, I think it is very noble), I do wonder if the plan’s benchmark of a 25 percent reduction in new HIV cases over a five-year span is a little too ambitious, especially for the amount of funding that’s actually being allocated.

Call me cynical the pressure to meet such quota or deadline will impede the actual effectiveness of the solution.  Just like an overwhelmed police force in any major crime-plagued city, which at the beckoning of its mayor, must reduce crime by a certain percentage and date, or risk being out of a job.

Not surprisingly, those same police departments are able to rise to the occasion – with the assistance of some under-reporting in crime statistics, of course. Not saying that this will be the case, necessarily, but when quotas are involved, even the most righteous individuals will engage in some funny math to meet the benchmarks and match the requirements for accountability.

While reducing the new infection rates by 25 percent would be a welcome outcome, it is my hope that the strategy, when implemented, will not hold so rigid to the suggested targets but rather focus more on the quality of prevention and education programs proposed in the forthcoming plan, including supporting initiatives that emphasizes the elimination of myths surrounding the HIV and AIDS infection as well as changing the way people view and engage in sexual behavior in general.

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