HIV Prevention Efforts at a ‘Crossroads’
The fight against HIV/AIDS in the United States has reached a "transition point," Dr. Helene Gayle, who will soon retire as head of the CDC's National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention, said yesterday in her closing remarks to the Second National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta, Newsday reports. "We don't have far to go to see the impact HIV is having on our lives. It's all around us," she added. Cornelius Baker, head of the Whitman-Walker Clinic, Washington, D.C.'s largest HIV services organization, said that the "conflicting data" announced at this week's conference have left him with "mixed emotions." CDC researchers on Monday presented data that indicate that AIDS cases and AIDS-related deaths have leveled off and on Tuesday researchers from the CDC and Kaiser Permanente presented two separate studies indicating that 40% of HIV-positive people do not learn of their status until they begin showing signs of AIDS. However, other studies revealed at the conference this week showed that efforts to reduce HIV infection rates among IV drug users through needle-exchange programs are working and that the rate of vertical transmission is falling. "I'm not quite clear what we're saying and what the overall impact is going to be with time," Baker said of the mixed news, adding that HIV/AIDS prevention is at a "crossroads." Baker, representatives of the National Association of People With AIDS and officials from four other national AIDS groups gave their endorsement to the CDC's target of cutting new HIV infections to 20,000 per year by 2005, a plan that is expected to cost $300 million per year. "As we pursue this discussion of prevention, we have to think about the impact it will have on people's lives," Baker cautioned (Garrett, Newsday, 8/16).