In response to an Aug. 25 New York Times article bemoaning a cut in aid dollars for South African HIV and AIDS treatment, the National Review published an opinion piece Aug. 29 from Edward C. Green and Alison Ruark calling for more support for HIV prevention.
Green, formerly with the Harvard School of Public Health, and Ruark, a PhD candidate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health living in Swaziland, note that behavioral interventions received more support under the Bush Administration through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
“Regarding trends in U.S.-government spending under PEPFAR, what little funding … behavioral interventions enjoyed under PEPFAR during the Bush years seems to have largely disappeared under the Obama administration,” they said.
They note that while the actual drivers of the HIV epidemic are risky behaviors, such as multiple and concurrent sexual partners, PEPFAR now targets its dollars at treatment. Antiretroviral drugs have saved lives, but their availability may actually lead to an increase in risky behaviors in countries like South Africa where HIV is no longer viewed as a death sentence.
The Heath Communication Capacity Collaborative (HC3) knows the value of using strategic health communication programs to not only prevent HIV but also for treating and caring for those infected with the virus. In August, HC3 supported a supplement in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (JAIDS) devoted to health communication and its role in and impact on HIV prevention and care. The evidence exists that shows communication plays a powerful role in changing the risky behaviors that lead to the spread of HIV.
Now is the time to use all the tools available to public health experts against HIV and AIDS to take advantage of the strides being made in treating HIV. Continued support for health communication programs along with biomedical prevention tools can help turn the tide on the epidemic for good.
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