President Obama announced a new initiative Monday to fight HIV in the United States by better coordinating federal efforts against the virus. In an executive order, Obama repeated his commitment to an “AIDS-free generation” and described a new working group to support the administration’s 2010 National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
The director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, Dr. Grant Colfax, will direct the initiative and jointly head the working group with the federal Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
The order directs Colfax and Sebelius to convene representatives from major federal departments and agencies to review new literature on HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention. The group is required to submit recommendations for improving federal efforts to stop HIV to the president within 180 days. Members of the working group are also asked to meet with stakeholders.
The proposal met with skepticism from the largest nonprofit HIV/AIDS healthcare provider in the United States, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF). Representatives of the group criticized the White House for “empty words,” and noted criticism of Obama’s anti-AIDS efforts during his recent trip to Africa.
“If indeed the president has finally understood the importance of this issue and will proactively address our concerns, then we will applaud that effort, but not until then,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein in a statement.
“We have wasted 4 1/2 years trying to educate this president about the tragedy that is AIDS in the world. The war against AIDS has not been won. Keep your promise, Mr. President. Play a real leadership role here and abroad. Your legacy depends on it.”