Early in May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lowered the overall target for reducing new HIV cases. This change was quietly released in the Addendum to the CDC’s HIV Prevention Strategic Plan Through 2005. The Addendum will serve as the strategic guide for the CDC’s HIV-prevention efforts for the next five years. The original goal had been to reduce new HIV cases by 50 percent over five years but the CDC now says it aims to lower new infections by just 10 percent over the next five years. Current estimates suggest that there are 40,000 new infections a year—this means that under the newly released goals, the CDC is aiming to reduce new infections by roughly 16,000 cases over the next five years.1
The CDC says the new goal represents a more realistic target. Kevin Fenton, MD, who directs the CDC’s National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention, stated “we’re still committed to the more ambitious vision, but we updated the plan to reflect current resources.”2
Educators and health care professionals, however, are concerned that the CDC is aiming low. Since 2001, when the first strategic plan for HIV prevention was released, there has been a 17 percent decline in funding for the CDC. Advocates fear that the drop to a 10 percent goal will lead to even further cuts and undermine progress already made in stemming the epidemic.
Advocates argue that the CDC failed to meet its original goal, not because the goal was unrealistic, but because the policies and funding to support it were not in place. They point to the lack of a dedicated funding stream for comprehensive sexuality education and the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange programs as barriers to achieving national HIV-prevention goals.3 “The U.S. cannot afford to keep generating lofty documents, and establishing ambitious goals, without the political will and public resources needed to achieve those goals,” stated Earl Pike, executive director of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland. Pike continued, “we should look at this in stark, human terms: a failure to fully fund effective programs constitutes a decision to let some people get sick, and die.”4
- Addendum to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention HIV Prevention, (Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, GA, April 2007), 2-7.
- Laura Whitehorn, “Department of Lowered Expectations: The CDC Tightens its Belt,” POZ, May 2007, accessed 20 May 2007, < http://www.poz.com/articles/401_11927.shtml>.
- Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project, “Two Months After launch of African American HIV Prevention Strategy, CDC Proposes to Severely Narrow Vision of Reducing HIV Transmission Rates in US,” Press Release published 9 May 2007, accessed 20 May 2007, <http://www.champnetwork.org/index.php?name=CDC-Strategic-Plan>.
- AIDS Task Force of Greater Cleveland, “Revised CDC HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan Confirms Failure to Achieve Prevention Goals,” Press Release published 11, May 2007, accessed 20 May 2007, <http://www.aidstaskforce.org/ASSETS/4B6BF137C3C240ADB269F1AF7C35EE77/