To kick off the 19th International AIDS Conference — meeting in the U.S. for the first time since 1990 — two U.S. officials announced new domestic initiatives and additional funding for international HIV/AIDS programs.
During her remarks on Sunday, the conference’s first night, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius laid out four new public-private initiatives to help people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. These new programs are in addition to $80 million in grants to ensure that low-income people living with HIV/AIDS have access to health care and medication.
Through a partnership with the MAC AIDS Fund’s Care for Life Initiative — a multi-year, $4.5 million project — Sebelius explained that Health and Human Services officials aim to launch “a mobile texting pilot program called UCARE4LIFE to help patients get important reminders and tips for managing their disease.” And the three other initiatives will focus on training and education:
With the pharmaceutical retailer Walgreens, she announced a three-year partnership with the Centers for Disease Control to explore ways in which pharmacies can help patients stay on their medications. According to a news statement, Walgreens is supplying nearly $1 million in in-kind services for this initiative.
With Medscape, a leading provider of online continuing education for U.S. clinicians, Sebelius unveiled partnership training programs with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid to help clinicians better understand and address HIV patients’ needs. According to a news statement, three new training modules have already been created for physicians, nurses and other medical professionals.
Finally, Sebelius announced that HHS is partnering with the eight largest AIDS drug companies — Abbot Laboratories, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol Myers Squibb, Gilead, Genentech, Johnson & Johnson, Merck and ViiV — to create a single application form for AIDS medications offered through their patient assistance programs.
In addition to the initiatives Sebelius touted, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that the U.S. is donating $80 million in new funding to help poor countries reach the goal of virtually eliminating HIV-infected births. Helping HIV-positive women access health care and treatment so that their babies are born HIV-free is a component of the Obama administration’s plan to fight HIV/AIDS. At the conference, Clinton said the funds will help provide medication to women who can’t always access it.
And she added that the U.S is investing additional millions to figure out the best ways to protect the highest-risk populations in countries hard hit by HIV/AIDS: gay and bisexual men, sex workers, and injecting drug users. “If we’re going to beat AIDS, we can’t afford to avoid sensitive conversations,” Clinton said.