Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) sent a letter June 17 to Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson expressing concern over the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new HIV testing and prevention plan that could divert as much as $90 million from traditional HIV prevention outreach. The CDC in April called for making HIV antibody testing a part of routine health care to help identify the estimated 280,000 Americans who are unaware they're infected with HIV and for increased development of programs that urge HIV-positive people not to expose others to the virus. But no new funding was announced, and millions of dollars to support the testing and prevention-for-positives initiative will be diverted from grants normally given to community-based organizations conducting traditional HIV prevention and education programs.
"While I certainly support the initiative's overall goal of developing new strategies to slow the spread of HIV, I have strong concerns about ways it might undercut successful efforts that are already underway," Durbin wrote. "Clearly, there is no simple way to confront this epidemic. Rather, a more comprehensive approach is essential, one that is mindful of the unique prevention needs of diverse communities across the United States." HHS had no comment about Durbin's letter.