Health Care Law Includes Millions of Dollars for HIV/AIDS Prevention

By Susan Jones | September 27, 2010 | 10:44 AM EDT

A marcher holds a rainbow flag by the U.S. Capitol as thousands of homosexual activists rally in Washington on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

( – At the most basic level, preventing HIV/AIDS is a matter of individual responsibility. But it’s also become an expensive government function.

On Friday, the Health and Human Services Department announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is allocating $30 million taxpayer dollars to expand national HIV/AIDS prevention efforts.

The millions of dollars will come from a new “Prevention and Public Health Fund” established by the Democrats’ health care law. More than $21 million of the money will be in the form of grants to state and local health departments to cover increased HIV/AIDS testing and data collection, among other things.

“This funding will give a critical boost to our HIV/AIDS prevention efforts across the country,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “By focusing on communities and geographic areas that have been hardest hit by this disease, these critical investments will make a real impact on prevention efforts -- a key part of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.”

Kevin Fenton, the physician who oversees prevention of sexually transmitted diseases for the federal Centers for Disease Control, said the funding announced on Friday will support “innovative, evidence-based, and high-impact prevention efforts.”

The Food and Drug Administration – in a brochure on condoms and sexually transmitted diseases – was able to sum up prevention strategies in three sentences: It says the surest way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS, is either to abstain from sex altogether; limit sex to one monogamous  partner; and/or use condoms correctly.

According to the FDA, about two-thirds of the people with AIDS in the United States got the disease during sexual intercourse with an infected partner. "Experts believe that many of these people could have avoided the disease by using condoms," the brochure says.

Prevention as a government function

Some of the grants announced on Friday will focus on the best way to prevent HIV/AIDS in 12 hard-hit areas across the country, including Chicago, Washington, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Houston, Los Angeles, Maryland, New York City, Philadelphia, Puerto Rico, San Francisco, and Texas.

Each of those jurisdictions will work with CDC “to determine what mix of HIV prevention approaches can have the greatest impact…at the individual, population, and community level,” the HHS news release said.

Millions of dollars also will be spent on evaluating new “prevention approaches” and “prioritizing underserved populations.”

Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said the $30-million in new funding “represents an exciting new investment" in HIV/AIDS prevention. "With far too many new infections occurring here each year – one new infection every nine and a half minutes – we must work together to ensure that the urgent HIV prevention needs in this country are met,” Mermin added.


Last week, the CDC released a study showing that in 21 major cities, nearly one in five men who have sex with men are infected with HIV, but 44 percent of them did not know it.

“We can’t allow HIV to continue its devastating toll among gay and bisexual men, and in particular, among young black men,” Mermin said in releasing those findings on Sept. 23. “We need to reinvigorate our response to preventing HIV among gay and bisexual men.”

According to the CDC, “Internalized homophobia may impact men’s ability to make healthy choices” involving sex and substance abuse. It also says “stigma and homophobia may limit the willingness of MSM (men who have sex with men) to access HIV prevention and care.” Racism, poverty, and lack of access to health care also are identified as “barriers to HIV prevention services.”

But the CDC also singles out “complacency” as a factor contributing to the rising number of new HIV/AIDS cases among young gay men: “Since young MSM did not experience the severity of the early HIV epidemic, some may falsely believe that HIV is no longer a serious health threat because of treatment advances and decreased mortality. Additional challenges for many MSM include maintaining safe behaviors over time and underestimating personal risk."

The CDC recommends that men who have sex with men be tested for HIV at least annually. Those at increased risk -- men with multiple or anonymous partners, and those who use drugs during sex -- should be tested every three to six months, it says.