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AIDS Crisis in Communities of Color Prompts Demand for National Plan to Fight HIV/AIDS

Thursday, August 28, 2008 General News J E 4
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LOS ANGELES, Aug. 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/-- In a historicallyunprecedented move, over 30 national HIV/AIDS organizations and leadersrepresenting African-American, Latino, Native American/Alaska Native, andAsian & Pacific Islander communities have joined forces in an urgent call forthe development and implementation of a comprehensive national AIDS strategy.The demands to the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees come inresponse to long-standing concerns about unmet needs for targeted HIVresearch, treatment access, medical care and prevention in communities ofcolor. A recently-released report from the U.S. Center for Disease Control andPrevention (CDC) on estimates of new HIV infections in the United Statesamplifies the crises faced in communities of color.

According to the CDC's alarming new estimates, communities of coloraccount for a combined total of 65% of the approximately 56,300 new HIVinfections occurring in the United States. By the CDC's own admission, thisnew estimate is 40% higher than the CDC's earlier estimate of 40,000infections per year. The startling new HIV rates are of special concern forpeople of color who are more likely to die from the disease than HIV-infectedwhites. AIDS advocates representing communities of color have long expresseddissatisfaction with the current lethargic, fragmented and unaccountable U.S.response to the epidemic, which they point out, is a direct result of the non-existent national plan.

Leading national HIV organizations and leaders representing communities ofcolor convened at the Ford Foundation in New York City in August 2008 toformulate a national HIV response to the new administration that will takeoffice in January 2009. Pledging to work together to strengthen the HIV/AIDSresponse nationally, and in their own communities, these organizations agreedon an urgent seven-point action plan.

The action points stipulate first and foremost the urgent need for thenext administration to rapidly initiate a National AIDS Strategy that engagesthe entire federal government in the fight against HIV and holds eachdepartment accountable for improved results in communities of color.Ironically, the U.S. government requires foreign countries receiving AmericanHIV/AIDS assistance to have a national strategy for addressing the epidemic,where there is none in place in our own country. The action plan also demandsthat the federal government improve its inadequate data gathering methods,currently accounting for only 33 out of the 50 states and 5 dependentterritories, excluding other states and territories severely impacted by theepidemic. This flawed process results in the underestimation of HIV rates andimpedes efforts to allocate adequate resources to address HIV/AIDS prevention,treatment, and care for all at-risk Americans.

Public health advocates also stress that the socio-economic drivers of theepidemic disproportionately impact communities of color. Such factors includepoverty, limited educational opportunities, gender inequities, homophobia, HIVstigma and inadequate health access. The needs of communities of color arefurther compromised by the current administration's response to the epidemicincluding a derisory allocation of only 4% of HIV-related domestic spendingtowards HIV prevention efforts and the flat-funding of the Minority HIV/AIDSInitiative for the past six years despite increasing rates of transmission inpeople of color communities during that time.

The partnering organizations and leaders stand together to demand concreteaction from the new President and his administration. The organizations andleaders represent various individuals, including health service providers,policy makers, physicians, medical schools and people living with HIV/AIDS.The representatives come together from across the country including Hawaii.Together, they bring a voice to the needs of people in urban,
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