A leading magazine on HIV/AIDS says whoever wins the US
presidential election Tuesday, November 4th, should develop a
national strategy to fight the disease. POZ Magazine says more than one million
Americans live with HIV and 14 thousand people died of the disease in the
United States in 2006. It's estimated that 25 percent of those infected with
the AIDS virus don't know it.
Regan Hofmann, editor-in-chief of POZ, spoke from
New York to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about why a
national AIDS strategy is needed.
"For the entire epidemic to date, now almost 28
years, we've had sort of a combination of small grassroots work being done and
then large-scale projects and initiatives, but there hasn't been the
coordination that is needed to make sure that all of the people, who are living
with HIV, can access care and treatment," she says.
The epidemic in the United States is larger than
many realized. "The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) this
summer announced that the numbers for HIV incidents in the US over the last
five years were about 40 percent higher than we previously estimated. AIDS is
not going away in America. It's a preventable disease. So, something's broken
here because we know how to stop the disease. We can prevent the transmission
of HIV and yet we're not. We know how to keep people alive and yet people are
still dying of AIDS in America," she says.
She says whoever wins the election should
"acknowledge" that there is an AIDS epidemic in the United States "and puts
forward a plan immediately to deal with it. The funding is not commensurate
with the need in the United States."
Hofmann says many federal and state AIDS-related
programs have faced significant budget cuts in recent years.
POZ recommends seven steps to deal with the AIDS
epidemic in the United States, including addressing stigma and discrimination.
Hofmann says, "The number one barrier, I believe, to people getting tested and
people coming forward for care is stigma, fear of what's going to happen to
them when they tell people they have HIV. I lived anonymously with HIV for 10
years. I didn't want to tell anybody because I was afraid I would lose my
family, my friends, my job, house. We have to change the way the world sees
She says the culture of blaming and condemning
someone who's HIV positive must end. "This is a retrovirus. It's nothing more
and nothing less, but we have to change the way that people think about AIDS so
that people aren't afraid to get tested. They aren't afraid to go and get care.
People who have HIV didn't do anything bad. And yet society, and even those
living with the disease, sometimes think otherwise," she says.
POZ recommends identifying "evidence-based
prevention tactics that work and tailor them to individual audiences." The
editor-in-chief says, "There's no one silver bullet for a prevention message.
You have to speak directly to people in a way that resonates with them. You
have to show them people they can identify with. You have to acknowledge what
their lifestyle is and make recommendations that are reasonable within that
She warns that many young people, who were born
after the initial fear that AIDS caused, are ignorant about how the disease can
be prevented. As a result, she says many are engaging in risky sexual behavior,
such as oral or anal sex, thinking HIV cannot be contract by these methods.
Hofmann says that more money must be spent to
find a vaccine or cure for the disease because the cost of treatment and
prevention will continue to rise. "This has become a global economic crisis.
It's been a humanitarian crisis for a long, long time…. We're looking at how in
the world the world is going to be able to pay for all of these people. So,
there's absolutely incentive, I think, to look for the answer to this disease.
We can't bear the cost of AIDS.
For more on the POZ Magazine article, AIDS
in the White House, go to www.poz.com