Responding to calls by Democrats to reject new Health and Human Services rules that change the focus of HIV prevention programs in the United States, Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) in an opinion piece in USA Today writes that existing prevention efforts are "abject failures." HHS will soon begin directing more federal AIDS prevention dollars toward programs that urge HIV-positive people to practice safer sex and that boost HIV antibody testing outreach, while programs focusing on traditional HIV prevention targeted at uninfected people will receive less funding.
A letter sent on September 11 to HHS secretary Tommy Thompson by House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House minority whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) says that existing prevention programs have been successful at holding HIV infection rates low for over a decade. But Weldon writes that the Democrats fail to acknowledge that recent data shows HIV infections are on the rise throughout the country. Weldon, citing studies showing new HIV infections have risen 100% in San Francisco and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures showing 40,000 Americans are infected with HIV each year, wrote that he is "very concerned when misinformed senior legislators claim that the process that's now in place has worked well for over a decade." He added that the shift in prevention focus is needed to reverse rising HIV infection trends and that it's "only right to demand better results from the billions of dollars spent."
Community-based groups across the country that conduct traditional HIV prevention outreach could lose as much as $90 million in funding in fiscal 2004 under the new HHS focus.