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Kevin Fenton

Kevin Fenton


As the new director for the National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Kevin Fenton brings not only nearly 15 years of experience as a physician working in public health in his native Great Britain but also his experiences as a gay man of color--a member of one of the populations hardest hit by HIV/AIDS. In his new job Fenton oversees behavioral surveillance, prevention, and testing intervention for HIV and other diseases.

What do you hope to achieve in your new job? My goal really is to accelerate progress, to encourage innovation, and to redouble our efforts at this critical time. My vision is to inspire better synergy between our services, whether it is our prevention services or the work we do between federal, state, and community organizations.

How do you feel about the Bush administration's recent budget proposal, which includes both increases and cuts in funding for HIV/AIDS services? We're very encouraged by the president's announcement of additional funds to support HIV testing, in part because we know there are a number of people who are HIV-positive who are unaware of their HIV status. If we're going to have any hope of truly getting ahead of the curve, it is really important that we diagnose people early.

Are there any areas you think are underfunded? I can't say that there are. There are two things that we need to bear in mind: HIV is a dynamic disease, and the infection continues to evolve. What is important is that we use the available techniques--including working with our community partners to understand which communities are worst affected--to begin to realign our existing resources to meet the needs in those communities. Over the next three to five years we'll need to be refining our prevention efforts.

Will that include new efforts to reach gay men? [Our intervention efforts include] the need to educate the younger generation of gay men around HIV. We've done studies which show that by 18 to 24 years of age up to 14% of gay men are HIV-positive and that by their 30s up to a third are--and 80% of young gay men age 18 to 24 [who participated in a recent study and were HIV-positive] did not know they were HIV-infected. Clearly, the thing we need to do is to promote HIV testing with young gay men, using community venues and structures to target them.

How will the fact that you are a black gay man affect your work? My primary driver is as a committed public-health physician and epidemiologist who's worked in the field for many years. Yes, there are many factors that will influence my day-to-day relationships--the drive I bring to the work and the commitment I have--but I'd rather focus on the job at hand and my qualifications to do it.

As we mark the 25th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic, what message would you like to share? It's really important for us to build upon the successes we've had in combating the epidemic. We've made tremendous gains in reducing HIV. We've made lots of gains with mobilizing communities in the fight against HIV; we've also made good inroads tackling new diagnoses among some minority communities. It's absolutely crucial that at this juncture we really look at what successes we've had and how we build on those successes in the future.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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