On Monday, health officials in Washington D.C. released a report showing that “at least 3 percent of District residents have HIV or AIDS, a total that far surpasses the 1 percent threshold that constitutes a ‘generalized and severe’ epidemic.”
ThinkProgress interviewed Scott Evertz — director of the Office of National AIDS Policy from 2001 to 2002 — about his reaction to the report:
Shocking, but we shouldn’t be particularly shocked. We’ve known for some time that in the District and other place where we see severe economic disparities that the prevalence is as high in some of the countries that we’re assisting in Africa. I think what needs to be continued to be worked on is to recognize the differences in risk groups and the messaging and how you get messages into specific risk group populations.
Funding for government-sponsored domestic AIDS/HIV initiatives like the Ryan White Program flat lined during Bush’s tenure, as the administration focused its efforts around faith and community-based organizations preaching abstinence-only. In the District, the administration “called for renewing restrictions on the D.C. government’s ability to use its own funds for such purposes as a needle-exchange program for drug addicts,” despite city’s insistence that such programs were “crucial to curbing the spread of HIV and AIDS.”
Evertz, who himself “was forced out of his job at the White House in July of 2002” after bulking the conservative orthodoxy on needle exchange programs and safe-sex education for teenagers, rebuked the Bush administration’s one-size-fits-all approach to fighting the domestic AIDS epidemic.
“I think what needs to be continued to be worked on is to recognize the differences in risk groups and the messaging and how you get messages into specific risk group populations,” he said. “Abstinence until marriage has meaning to very few young gay people in the United States because they can’t get married. So I don’t think I’m being disingenuous to suggest that that message means nothing to a young gay person who’s struggling coming out.”
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