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Awareness Campaign On HIV/AIDS Begins U.S. to Spend $45 Million Over 5 Years
 
 
  By Darryl Fears
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
 
The Obama administration began a five-year, $45 million media blitz yesterday to spark awareness about HIV infection and AIDS, saying that Americans have grown complacent about the deadly illness even though it represents "a serious threat to the health of our nation."
 
The campaign, unveiled during a White House ceremony, will hammer home the theme that every 9- minutes, someone in the USA is infected with HIV, for an estimated total of 56,300 new cases each year.
 
The campaign, Act Against AIDS, will include public service announcements, advertising on trains, buses and other modes of public transportation, text messages and a Web site, http://NineAndaHalfMinutes.org, a reference to the frequency with which people are infected. http://NineAndaHalfMinutes.org,
 
"There is a complacency . . . a false sense of security and a false sense of calm," said Kevin Fenton, director of the national center for HIV/AIDS at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Every 9 1/2 minutes, someone's mother, someone's daughter, someone's father, someone's friend is infected."
 
Fenton said the aim of campaign, at a cost of $9 million a year, "is to put the HIV epidemic back on the front burner, on the radar screen." But the program is being criticized as inadequate by a leading HIV/AIDS nonprofit group.
 
"There are approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. living with HIV/AIDS today. More than 300,000 of these individuals have never had an HIV test and therefore do not know their HIV status," said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "A $45 million communications plan, no matter how well-intended, will do little to help identify those 300,000 infected individuals who may unknowingly be infecting others.."
 
from WSJ:
Roughly 56,000 people become infected with HIV every year in the U.S., according to the revised CDC statistics, compared with a previous annual estimate of 40,000 new cases a year. About 1.1 million people are infected and 21% of them are unaware of their infection, the CDC estimates. About 14,000 people die of AIDS annually in the U.S., according to the CDC.
 
Fenton said the campaign will initially target a group that nonprofit organizations overlooked for years as the disease spread: African Americans. Black people make up slightly more than 12 percent of the population, but they represent nearly half of new HIV infections and nearly half of Americans living with the disease, according to the CDC. One in 16 black men will be infected with HIV in his lifetime, along with one in 30 black women.
 
A separate phase of the awareness campaign will target Latinos, who represent 15 percent of the country and 17 percent of new infections, according the CDC statistics. The rate of new infections among Latino men is double the rate among white men, and the rate among Latino women is four times that among white women.
 
Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes said the District is of particular concern. A recent study by the D.C. HIV/AIDS Administration that showed 3 percent of District residents have HIV or AIDS.
 
The rate was 6.5 percent for black men in the District and 2.6 percent for black women. Fenton said an estimated one in five people who have HIV are not aware of it.
 
To help get the message out, the White House and CDC will work with black interest groups including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, 100 Black Men of America and the American Urban Radio Networks.
 
Twenty-five years ago, skeptics questioned the National Council of Negro Women's conference on HIV/AIDS. Today, the answer is clear, said Dorothy I.. Height, a civil rights icon and president emeritus of the council.
 
"Here we are today with African American women being 15 times more likely to be infected than white women in our country," she said. "We want to be able to talk about this as we talk about jobs, as we talk about housing, as we talk about civil rights. We all have a responsibility to break the silence and speak out about this disease."
 
from USA Today:
 
The new campaign will attempt to recapture some of the urgency that characterized the epidemic's early days. Future phases will target African Americans and Latinos, groups that suffer disproportionate cases of HIV.
 
Jeffrey Crowely, director of the White House Office of AIDS Policy, says the administration's messages will be shaped by "what works and what doesn't" in the context of a national AIDS strategy.
 
The White House website offers some clues to what that strategy might include. It says President Obama supports "age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception," distributing contraceptives through the public health system and lifting the ban on federal funding for needle exchange, "which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users."
 
David Holtgrave of Johns Hopkins University noted that an "investment of $9 million a year isn't going to reduce HIV infections in the United States."
 
"It's an important piece of the puzzle but not the whole puzzle," he says.
 
Holtgrave has calculated that the CDC's prevention budget would have to grow from $800 million a year to $1.3 billion to cut the number of new HIV infections in half, through large-scale counseling and testing programs, preventive services for people with HIV and targeted programs for those most vulnerable to infection.
 
 
 
 
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