Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Confronting AIDS Pandemic Obama's Newest Dilemma as White House Strategy Imminent Say Ed Koch, Robert Weiner, Jordan Osserman

/PRNewswire/ -- Confronting the ongoing AIDS pandemic for his upcoming first national HIV/AIDS Strategy is President Obama's newest dilemma, say former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, former White House Drug Policy spokesman Robert Weiner, and Dartmouth College Coalition for Progress president Jordan Osserman.

In a guest column in today's New York Observer entitled "The Epidemic Continues", Koch, Weiner, and Osserman assert that Americans' "sense of urgency" about AIDS has "fallen considerably" even though 33 million people are now living with HIV worldwide, over one million in the U.S.

The authors point out that in New York City, more than 100,000 people live with HIV. The City's Health Department calls New York the "epicenter" of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The writers assert, "This year, one million people around the world won't receive treatment for AIDS and 2.9 million HIV-positive women won't receive services to prevent mother-child transmission."

They contend, "We've cut polio by 99% throughout the world, and we can do the same for AIDS."

They say it's an "understatement for the City's Health Department to say on its website, 'More must be done.' "

They commend Bill Clinton for creating the country's first "AIDS Czar" and now, in his post-presidential foundation, expanding medications and reducing AIDS drug costs around the world.

They assert, "The Administration must keep Barack Obama's repeated promise to fully fund the Global Fund to Fight AIDS. The Administration did not request the $2.7 billion for the Global Fund from Congress as the U.S. share of the support agreed to by the G-8."

On the "home front," massive education is needed: "It's an honest if indelicate statement to point out that most AIDS would be prevented if new and multiple partners used a condom; up to a third of HIV comes from intravenous drug abuse." Though "it's a tough sell when the entire federal health bill's budget is being criticized by the right," in New York City alone, "hundreds of millions of dollars" could be used for treatment, prevention, and education.

They conclude, "In a weak economy, healthy markets depend on a healthy populace...As he develops his HIV/AIDS strategy, making the case for additional funding is Obama's latest dilemma."

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