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.
AID Atlanta announced today it has hired former Atlanta City Councilmember Cathy Woolard as its interim executive director.
"I'm very excited to work with the board and the management team of AID Atlanta during this pivotal time of transition for the agency," said Woolard in a prepared statement. “Our fundraising efforts remain strong and we’re going into 2013 with confidence.”
World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, features the slogan “Getting to zero: zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, zero AIDS related deaths” for the years 2011 through 2015.
While it is unlikely the “zero” goal will be reached by 2015, three decades of HIV analysis has sparked a “renaissance” of medical research that is leading scientists in new directions in their search for an effective vaccine.
Dr. Wayne Koff, the chief scientific officer for the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, started researching HIV shortly after the first cases began appearing some 30 years ago.
“We’ve seen in the last three or four years a plethora of data that we in the AIDS vaccine development field are calling a renaissance, and as someone who has been in the field since the beginning I don’t use that term lightly,” Koff said.
Georgia events to recognize World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, include everything from free HIV testing at malls to a screening of a newly released documentary about HIV in the South to a town hall meeting to discuss the impact of HIV/AIDS.
Many events are scheduled in metro Atlanta, as well as Augusta, Macon and Valdosta, among other cities.
In Atlanta, HIV agencies like AID Atlanta, Positive Impact and the Ric Crawford Clinic will offer free HIV testing; Fulton and DeKalb County health departments are also teaming up to provide free HIV testing at places such as Greenbriar Mall and South DeKalb Mall.
On Dec. 1, we commemorate World AIDS Day. Last month, we celebrated the 22nd anniversary of AIDS Walk Atlanta, perhaps one of the most enduring rituals of the local HIV/AIDS community.
These two milestones are part of a series of significant events over the past few months locally and nationally: The United States Conference on AIDS, also in October; National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in September; and the much anticipated International AIDS Conference held in Washington, DC, back in July.
Throughout these high profile events and activities, one message remains clear: We are at a turning point in the HIV/AIDS epidemic.