National AIDS plan aims to cut new cases by 25%

WASHINGTON — The White House on Tuesday unveiled the first formal national HIV/AIDS strategy, a plan that aims to reduce the number of new cases by 25 percent in the next five years, officials said.

Noting that the number of new infections in the United States has been static — and that the number of people living with HIV is growing — the new policy directs more resources toward African-Americans and gay and bisexual men. Latinos and substance abusers should also be a priority, the report says, stating, "We must reorient our efforts by giving much more attention and resources" to those four groups, who are the "populations at highest risk."

"We are keeping pace when we should be gaining ground," Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday at the White House.

It comes as President Obama faces pressure from gay rights advocates to do more for their community, including hastening the repeal of the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military. The new HIV/AIDS policy has been summarized in a 60-page report that credits the Bush administration for its efforts to address the disease but also laments the country's general lack of concern. "The public's sense of urgency associated with combating the epidemic appears to be declining" since the days when infections first emerged, the report says.

In addition to slashing the infection rate, the strategy calls for increasing patients' access to care so that 85 percent of those infected will receive care within three months of being diagnosed, compared with 65 percent who do so now. It says that 90 percent of all people who have HIV or AIDS should know they are infected, up from the current 79 percent. A further goal should be to reduce the HIV transmission rate by 30 percent.

The report says the twin aims of cutting new infections and increasing the number of patients who receive care will advance Obama's goal of making the United States "a place where new HIV infections are rare and when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination." The strategy does not call for a massive spending increase.