HHS establishes HIV/AIDS committees
Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson last week established several committees to examine long-standing AIDS issues, including groups focusing on HIV research, prevention and care for minority gay and bisexual men, and funding for the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative, a program established by the Congressional Black Caucus in 1998. The minority initiative was launched in response to data showing that African-Americans account for about half of all new HIV cases in the United States, despite constituting just 12% of the nation's population. The project was expanded in 2001 to also include Latino, Asian-Pacific Islander, and Native American communities. AIDS activists have asked Thompson to provide $540 million in funding for the initiative in fiscal 2004. The committee formed by Thompson to examine funding for the initiative includes Debra Fraser-Howze, president and CEO of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS; Deborah Parham, director of the Health Resources and Services Administration's HIV/AIDS Bureau; and Christopher Bates, acting director of the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS Policy. Ernest Hopkins, director of federal affairs for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, will serve as chairman of the committee focusing on issues affecting minority men who have sex with men. The committees are scheduled to release reports on their findings in December.