CDC's new HIV prevention plan draws criticism
AIDS advocates and some federal lawmakers have reacted with concern to plans announced in April by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to shift as much as $90 million in prevention funds away from community-based groups offering traditional HIV prevention programs to those targeting people already infected with the virus. Critics of the plan say this will shortchange proven prevention methods and represents a dangerous shift in the government's HIV fight. Debra-Fraser Howze, president of the National Black Leadership Council on AIDS, said a strategy "that only focuses on people who are already HIV-positive and takes no responsibility for prevention among people who are not yet positive is insane and, I feel, genocidal."
Robert Janssen, director of the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at CDC, said the agency does not plan to stop funding traditional prevention activities but that they will represent "a smaller share" of federally supported efforts. "What we don't want to do is just hand out condoms and brochures," he said. Janssen said the nonprofits may reapply and have a good chance of receiving their grants if they redesign their programs to focus on HIV-positive populations. If they do not, their CDC funding will likely run out in May 2004. They can still apply for part of the $140 million CDC provides state and local health departments for prevention efforts, but those agencies also are being directed to target HIV-infected people as their top priority.
The Congressional Black Caucus, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, and other lawmakers are urging the Bush administration to reconsider the changes. "This is like we just threw public health out the window," said Donna Christensen, the Virgin Islands' nonvoting delegate to the House and the first female doctor to serve in Congress.