Dr. Howard Koh speaks with Phill Wilson at the International AIDS Conference 2010
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K: Hi I'm Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I'm here at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria, the largest AIDS meeting in the world. It's my great pleasure to be here with Phill Wilson, the CEO of the Black AIDS Institute and one of the leading public health advocates in the country. We're very delighted to see Phill and also very pleased that he's a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. Welcome, Phill.
W: Thank you, I'm glad to be here.
K: So, tell us from your point of view the top two or three main messages that are coming out of this conference.
W: I think that there are three main messages out of this meeting this year. The first is actually the story that happened like a week before the conference started where we identified the three antibodies that might lead us to a vaccine. You know, I think that's very exciting news, you know, we're of course a long ways away from having a vaccine, but having proof of concept that we actually can develop the antibodies, is usually important. The second story is the story about race, poverty, and HIV and AIDS. We have long known that black people in America has been disproportionately impacted by HIV and AIDS. And this story puts it into a context. It speaks to the issues around social determinants. It also speaks to the relationship between poverty and race. And most importantly, it puts us on alert that when we talk about HIV we can't deal with it in a vacuum. But probably, the most important science story of this week is clearly the story about microbicides. The fact that we can again develop the first prevention mechanism that will be female-controlled, again we're a long way away from having an actual microbicide vaccine, but the hope that we have that someday we will have that and probably someday soon. So I think that those are the big important stories, and I think they touch on important areas of the work we need to do.
K: So as I mentioned, Phill is a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. Tell us how this conference is going to affect your work on that council.
W: Well, you know, we're moving into implementation. The President has done his job, and he's given us clear marching orders, we have clear goals and objectives, you know, we have markers that we need to meet. And now, as they say, the devil is in the details. And I think for those of us who are at PACHA, this meeting provides us with an informational background to talk about how we're going to address prevention and treatment and research, and how we're going to address the key populations that the President wants us to focus on.
K: So some final comments on the National Strategy that you just alluded to, do you want to make some last minute comments on that?
W: Well, you know, as my grandmother used to say, when you fail to plan, you plan to fail. And for nearly thirty years, we have failed to plan. As a result we have an AIDS epidemic that's twenty percent larger than we thought it was, one out of five Americans living with HIV don't know their HIV status, nearly fifty percent of people in America living with HIV are not in appropriate care. And the only way we're going to truly change the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic is by having a solid plan. I think that the thing that I find most important about the new National AIDS Strategy is that finally we have said that there are populations that are disproportionately impacted and that's where we need to focus. You know, who knew? And so focusing on African-Americans, focusing on men who have sex with men, focusing on the southeast region of the country that's most heavily impacted today, I think moves us forward in our efforts to end the AIDS epidemic in our country.
K: Thanks so much Phill, those are great insights. This is Dr. Howard Koh, from Vienna, Austria.