More than 9,000 people with HIV were on a waiting list for federal assistance in buying their medications in August 2011. On Monday, President Obama announced that, as of this week, that number is down to zero.
"At one time, the need was so great that over 9,000 people were on the waitlist,” said the president, at a White House ceremony Monday marking World AIDS Day. “We vowed to get those numbers down. And I’m proud to announce that, as of last week, we have cleared that waitlist. We are down to zero. And we’re going to keep working to keep it down.”
Carl Schmid, an official at the AIDS Institute who has devoted considerable voice to shining a light on that waiting list, agreed the Obama administration deserves some credit. Schmid said the administration’s re-direction of $35 million in funding to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) two years ago “really helped” clear the waiting lists.
While the number of new HIV infections in the U.S. continues to hold steady at about 50,000 a year, infections rates among gay and bisexual men, especially African American men who have sex with men (MSM), continue to rise sharply, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since 1998, Positive Impact has received state funding for its HIV and AIDS programs. This year, the agency asked for $181,629 but was awarded nothing in its bid for a contract for testing and community mobilization efforts to stop the spread of HIV.
Positive Impact provides culturally competent mental health and other services to gay and bisexual men and others affected by HIV, including prevention programs. Leaders are at a loss as to why the state decided they deserved no money this year.
"We were really shocked that they listed as our scores not being competitive enough because that's very unlike our agency," said Danny Sprouse, prevention director of Positive Impact, in an interview at the organization's offices in Midtown. "When we looked at our scores further, I was further appalled."
Young, black gay and bisexual men experienced a 48 percent increase in new HIV infections from 2006 through 2009, according to new data released today by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
The Atlanta-based CDC determined figures that show that in 2006, there were 4,400 HIV infections among black gay and bisexual men ages 13-29. The numbers jumped to 6,500 infections in 2009 within the same age group. This subpopulation represents the only subpopulation in the U.S. to experience a statistically significant increase during these three years.
“We are deeply concerned by the alarming rise in new HIV infections in young, black gay and bisexual men and the continued impact of HIV among young gay and bisexual men of all races,” said Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, in a statement.
It’s funny how much power we assign to numbers and rankings. As a child, I can remember the playground conversations of children picking their “top friends.” Many recall the sting of being the last to be picked for sports teams in gym. Early on we learn that there is distinct significance to where we rank in society – and how others view us. The power of the social caste system increases as we grow older; high school greets us with senior superlatives denoting you as “the most popular” or “the best dressed.” By the time we enter adulthood, it is clear that the way we make our mark is in numeric listings of status. We want to be ranked in the top of our class, in hopes that one day we may be employed by the top company in our field. In fact, we even go on to rank places as “the best place to live” or the “the best place to raise children.”