The first of a series of five Implementation Dialogues was held on September 27 in Birmingham, Alabama, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Alys Robinson Stephens Preforming Arts Center. The meeting focused on “Incorporating Prevention and Care Research Into HIV Programs” brought together speakers and panelists from across federal, state and local government, as well as experts from the HIV/AIDS community and research areas. Jeffrey S. Crowley, Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) welcomed the more than 150 guests, and thanked them for their work in support of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. UAB President Carol Garrison, and Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also spoke. Dr. Koh encouraged participants to make the National HIV/AIDS Strategy real in the southeast and around the country. He recalled the early days of the AIDS epidemic thirty years ago, and the extreme fear and stigma surrounding the treatment of the first patients, and the challenge of providing care with no plan or coordinated approach in place. He noted that while there is still a great deal of stigma and health disparities around HIV/AIDS, there is now a plan of action in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which he said has, “catalyzed the country”.
Attendees heard a presentation of research updates from UAB Associate Professor of Medicine and Project Director, UAB 1917 Clinic Cohort, Dr. Michael J. Mugavero. This baseline information of the latest HIV/AIDS research findings from the field (including HPTN 052 and CAPRISA 004) set the stage for the panel and community discussions, which were moderated by Dr. Michael Saag, Jim Straley Chair in AIDS Research and Director, Center for AIDS Research at UAB. The panelists included: Dr. Gina Brown, from the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Peter Leone, from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Deborah Parham Hopson, from Health Resources and Services Administration, Mr. Steve Wakefield from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Ms. Tiffany West, from the District of Columbia Department of Health.
Many important themes and suggestions came out of the meeting, including the need to do more HIV/AIDS testing, and the importance of linking and retaining more people into care. In addition, the need to address the health disparities that exist and the barriers to identifying people early. Some discussion was had around the difficulty people and communities have talking about sex, which makes it challenging to address sexually transmitted infections. Additional discussions stemmed around the need to understand better what puts people at risk for HIV, what will keep them in treatment , and how to integrate policies and programs at federal, state and local levels. Recommendations included focusing on what people and groups can do that are scalable and figuring out what prevention and education messages work for which communities. Policies, such as opt-out testing were discussed as well in terms of their impact, as well evaluating what’s working, tailoring interventions and sharing information. These and other important ideas and recommendations were brought forward and the ONAP will be developing a brief synthesis of the implementation dialogue that will be made available to the public. All of the Implementation Dialogues will be videocast on the ONAP website.
Joan Romaine is a Policy Advisor in the Office of National AIDS Policy, on detail from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).