Dr. Howard Koh speaks with Helene Gayle at the International AIDS Conference 2010
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K: Hi, I'm Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health at the US Department for Health and Human Services. I'm here in Vienna, Austria, at the International AIDS Conference, the largest AIDS conference in the world, and it's July 20, 2010. I am absolutely delighted to be joined here by Dr. Helene Gayle who is a national expert on HIV/AIDS. She's the CEO of CARE, USA, and we are also very honored to have her as chair of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. Welcome, Dr. Gayle.
G: Thank you
K: So, tell us, from your point of view, what are the top couple of themes from this conference that is relevant to this audience about HIV.
G: Well, I think that this is a very hopeful conference in many ways. It shows we've made great progress in providing access to treatment for people around the world. One of the real challenges has always been getting access to antiretroviral treatment to parts of the world that don't have the kind of resources that we have in the United States and there has been such incredible mobilization now. Nearly over 5 million people have access to antiretroviral therapies in poor countries around the world. This is a great step forward. There's also incredible news on the prevention front. There's a much greater optimism about having new prevention tools. There was a landmark study that was reported on today that showed that a proof of concept trial for a microbicide, a method that women can use to protect themselves against HIV showed positive results. This is the first time we've had a positive result from a microbicide trial after over a decade of trials in this arena. So I think there's good news on both the prevention as well as the treatment front, and I think that this should give us a lot of encouragement that in fact we are making progress in this epidemic and I think it should encourage us to continue to do more.
K: Great, tell us more about how these things affect the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS that you chair.
G: Well, I think that clearly first of all this is an international meeting and we are looking at global issues of which the United States is part of the global picture. Some of the things that we have heard about that particularly relate to the US epidemic is for instance a study that the CDC reported out here that really looked at the intersection between poverty and race. The presidential AIDS recently released National HIV/AIDS strategy really talked about how we as a country need to make sure that our efforts are targeted and focused at the populations at greatest risk, and I think that this report helps us to even better define who's at risk and what are some of the driving factors. We know that minority populations, particularly African Americans and Hispanics, have been disproportionally impacted by this epidemic in the United States, but I think that the study that looks at the intersection between social economic status and race and ethnicity is the kind of thing that will help us to target our resources even better, and be more precise about the kinds of ways in which we are applying our tools to make a difference in this epidemic. We're very pleased that we were able to talk about the release of the new National HIV/AIDS Strategy. It's the first time that the United States has this kind of comprehensive national plan that gives us a blueprint around reducing incidence, increasing access to treatment and reducing disparities in the epidemic so I think this is incredibly great news.
K: And finally do you want to say something about this new HIV strategy will be relevant to AIDS service organizations around the US?
G: Well, it is going to be critical for us to have the support of the communities that are engaged in the fight against HIV in the United States. This was issued by the US government and the agencies that are responding on behalf of the Federal government, but the Federal government cannot do it without the support of the communities, community AIDS service organizations, community groups and all who are necessary to actually now take this plan and make it a living document where communities can all engage in the efforts to continue to advance and make progress in reducing the spread of HIV and making sure that all people in the United States have access to life saving treatment.
K: Thanks so much Dr. Gayle. This is Dr. Howard Koh from Vienna, Austria.