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Presidential Candidates Called Upon to Come Up with National HIV/AIDS Strategy

A coalition of more than 30 groups is calling on both presidential candidates to come up with a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy.

The groups represent the African-American, Latino, Native American and Asian and Pacific Islander communities. Recent figures show that 65 percent of the more than 56,000 new HIV infections each year in the United States occur among people of color.

Ravinia Hayes-Cozier is the director of government relations and public policy for the National Minority AIDS Council. In Washington, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about why a comprehensive national AIDS strategy is needed.

"Well, first and foremost, when we talk about a national plan, we're probably one of the very few countries who don't have one. But most importantly I think we're at a point…where we've had a great deal of experience with HIV/AIDS. There are some things that we know work well. There are some things we need to modify and change and there are some things we just shouldn't be a part of," she says.

She says the plan would contain a number of elements, beginning with prevention.

"What it would do is give consistent messages across the country that everyone supports. It would also provide a way of ongoing communication around HIV/AIDS, whether it's through our educational system, through our healthcare system, or through any kind of media campaigns. It would also provide as a unified way of counseling and testing folks, with some real clear outcomes and expectations that we all have and not just based on individual…communities or states or cities," she says.

As for treatment, she says, "It would give us some strong protocols in how we implement care and treatment for those who are impacted by HIV/AIDS. It would give us a way of looking at this disease from a chronic disease perspective, as well as a way of looking at those most impacted…and coming up with clear guidelines and…of trying to reduce the epidemic in those communities as well."

Asked why it's important for the next president to speak out on HIV/AIDS, Hayes-Cozier says, "I think because there has been silence on the domestic side about HIV/AIDS, the numbers have not fared as well as on the global side. It's important that people still see this as an epidemic that is affecting people in this country, particularly minorities and very clearly African-Americans. And those numbers continue to go up."