Obama's AIDS Strategy a Test of Will. 14/7/10
This country has a better record on fighting AIDS overseas than it does at home.
This country has a better record on fighting AIDS overseas than it does at home. In 2003, Washington launched a $15 billion overseas effort to stem the outbreak in 15 hard-hit countries, but it neglected to focus on the plague here.
President Obama wants to change this disparity with his own domestic AIDS plan. It keys on testing, sending federal money where it's needed most, and setting a goal to cut infection rates by 25 percent.
It's gotten mixed reviews. Several AIDS groups, bothered that the epidemic has dropped from public view, are grateful for the White House emphasis. Others are angry that plan isn't calling for more spending.
On balance, the strategy is thrifty and targeted. Washington politics won't welcome another big-ticket health care item, worthy as this one may be. The Obama plan intends to work within the $19 billion worth of AIDS spending already on the books.
The package aspires to make a significant dent in the troubling fact that AIDS cases haven't dropped in years. About 56,000 - chiefly gay males, Latinos and African Americans - are infected each year by the virus that causes AIDS.
By insisting on widespread testing, the new policy tries to make more people aware of their condition as a way to cut new infections and provide treatment. Currently, 79 percent of those infected know their condition. The plan wants to raise the number to 90 percent.
The package also wants to put more people into clinical programs sooner. Life-extending drugs have blunted a condition once regarded as death sentence.
The new thinking was revealed a week in advance of an international AIDS gathering in Vienna. Also, the White House wants to improve relations with gay groups upset at its go-slow pace of ending discrimination in the military.
The plan sticks with the basics - testing and access to care - and avoids a divisive battle over new money. Those are the right ingredients for the next phase in the AIDS fight.