When President Obama released the National HIV/AIDS Strategy in July 2010, he said, “The Federal government can’t do this alone, nor should it. Success will require the commitment of governments at all levels, businesses, faith communities, philanthropy, the scientific and medical communities, educational institutions, people living with HIV, and others.”
Clearly, success at achieving our aggressive goals in the Strategy depends not only on Federal leadership, but new investments and new partnerships from all parts society. We know that some of our biggest successes in fighting HIV/AIDS have come about because of private sector initiatives, and we’ve called on businesses and foundations to provide that next level of leadership by stepping up their efforts in a few targeted areas. We want to hear about your successful partnerships and new ideas for working together.
Priority areas where private sector partners can help us to achieve the National HIV/AIDS Strategy goals are:
Bridging the gap in access to HIV medications: Over the past year, a growing challenge has arisen as an increasing number of people living with HIV are placed on waiting lists for state operated AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP). Most states have managed to avoid imposing these waiting lists, but nearly 6,500 people in 11 states are currently on waiting lists. Even states without these lists have had to make difficult decisions such as to restrict the scope of drug coverage available or to limit the income standards of people who qualify for assistance. The Federal government has a role to play in responding to this situation and states must remain committed to investing in these programs, but we need the continued commitment from our private sector partners to weather the economic downturn that is afflicting many parts of the country. Pharmaceutical companies and related charitable organizations have maintained patient assistance programs that provide critical aid to those in need. We are appreciative that these companies have maintained and increased their commitments in this area. Foundations have also helped to support community efforts to bolster state investments in programs providing HIV medications.
Ensuring that the HIV community and people living with HIV take full advantage of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act: The Affordable Care Act will greatly expand access to insurance coverage in 2014, and there are already numerous immediate benefits for people living with HIV and others. Private sector partners can help the HIV community work through the implementation phase by helping people living with HIV and the HIV care system learn about the improvements in insurance coverage and critical steps to be taken both to ensure that no new gaps in coverage appear as people gain new coverage. Private sector partners also can ensure that HIV clinics, clinicians, and services providers are adapting to and engaging in the newly expanded insurance system.
Improving understanding, reducing stigma, and communicating actionable information to the public, especially among most affected communities: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other Federal agencies have a role to play in operating social marketing initiatives and other programs to improve understanding about HIV. At the same time, the private sector has unique experience, expertise, and assets to bring to bear. As we focus on the populations and communities at greatest risk, private sector partners can help to deliver action-oriented information on issues such as prevention, testing, and treatment, including promoting early entry into clinical care for people living with HIV and increasing knowledge about HIV and reducing stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. The private sector can also fill an important need by strengthening critical community institutions and supporting capacity building of community based organizations within the communities most disproportionately impacted by HIV, such as within local organizations serving Black and Latino gay men, youth (including homeless youth and LGBT youth), substance users, and women of color.
Supporting innovative partnerships in the cities and communities with the most cases of HIV: CDC has begun important work in the twelve jurisdictions in the United States with the greatest number of people living with AIDS. HHS and HUD are also considering a variety of complimentary new initiatives to build on CDC’s work in order to better integrate all of the HIV resources within a community. This project has relevance not only for these communities, which are responsible for roughly 44% of the epidemic in the US, but it will teach us valuable lessons to be applied to our collective work with other states and jurisdictions across the country. Private sector partners can support this effort many ways, such as helping community-based partners engage with local government partners on this initiative, coordinating current and new prevention and care efforts in these communities, partnering on outreach efforts, and conducting evaluations and efforts to transfer lessons so that other areas of the country can benefit from the experiences in these high prevalence jurisdictions. This will also compliment other work of the private sector in responding to high levels of unmet need in other communities, such as in the South.
The National HIV/AIDS Strategy provides a moment of opportunity to make big things happen. Business and labor partners, foundations, and other charitable organizations have long made critically important contributions to support individuals and communities affected by HIV/AIDS, often by working with governments to test new ideas or expand successful programs. Over the coming months, the Administration will be looking for opportunities to partner with the private sector to achieve the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
So, we want to hear from you – the innovative leaders in this space who are undertaking new initiatives to support the implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Tell us about your successful partnerships and new ideas for working together at AIDSpolicy@who.eop.gov.
Melody C. Barnes is an Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council