Melanie Thompson is joining the Georgia Department of Public Health as a special adviser for HIV, STD's, viral hepatitis and tuberculosis, according to a statement released by the department's commissioner, Brenda Fitzgerald.

Thompson is the principal investigator with the AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta and currently serves on the International AIDS Society-USA Antiretroviral Guidelines Panel and the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care Guidelines Panel on Entry Into and Retention in Care and Antiretroviral Adherence.

“My feeling is that we can best address the challenges we face with good external input and an overarching plan to guide us,” Fitzgerald said today.

Ga. Dept. of Public Health gets new HIV adviser

“I have asked Dr. Thompson to convene an Advisory Council that will bring together individuals from affected communities, community-based organizations, academia, and other stakeholders to provide DPH with the best possible input to inform our programs and policies.”

STD rates in Georgia are among the highest in the country, according to Fitgerald.

“This is the beginning of a renewed commitment from DPH to address our most vexing infectious disease challenges with a fresh start and new perspectives. Georgia can, and must, become a national leader in our response to HIV, STDs, viral hepatitis and TB,” Fitzgerald concluded.

The Georgia Department of Public Health has come under fire from HIV activists, who have in the past complained the department internal struggles as well as not sending our resources and funding in a timely manner to help clients.

The Ga. Department of Public Health is also responsible for reducing the state’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program wait list, which currently has more than 1,000 people on the list. In October, the Department of Public Health received a grant of $3 million to reduce the list by some 300 people.