Approximately 200 people gathered on Wednesday to hear about progress on one of President Obama's major initiatives—the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS). This meeting provided an opportunity to update the public on the process for developing the Strategy, as well as current status and next steps. It allowed the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) and HHS to share feedback from community discussions which began last summer, and offered participants the opportunity to meet with the Federal HIV Interagency Working Group – made up of representatives from agencies working on HIV/AIDS across the Federal government, including White House offices. The working group was brought together in an effort to establish a coordinated response to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
President Obama is committed to addressing HIV/AIDS in the United States and tasked ONAP, under the direction of Jeffrey Crowley, to develop the NHAS. The Strategy will allow ONAP to identify a small number of high-payoff action steps that can shift and improve our nation's response to HIV/AIDS in order to achieve the President's goals.
A large component of developing this strategy involves public feedback. As Crowley said at the meeting, "We want to acknowledge the important role that you are playing. You helped us spread the word and get people to our community discussions. We are here today, in part, because we have heard you. In recent weeks, we have heard several questions about where we are in the process and what is happening and we wanted to take this opportunity to update you."
As part of the community discussions, members of the working group met directly with 4,200 people in cities all across the country, including members of the public health community, AIDS service organizations, and people living with HIV/AIDS. In Jackson, MS, discussions with people living with HIV/AIDS gave hope for better understanding what it's like to live with HIV in the South. In Minneapolis, the working group participated in site visits to help them understand what African immigrants are experiencing.
The public has been a crucial and active partner in all our efforts. We will continue to update you on our progress as we work to develop a strong roadmap to send to the President.
Please visit www.AIDS.gov next week to watch a video of the meeting, view video feedback from community leaders, or get additional information on Wednesday's NHAS meeting.
Julia Eisman is the New Media Communications Director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services