The Obama Administration's PEPFAR "Blueprint for an AIDS Free World" released yesterday by U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is an impressive and welcome roadmap forward," said Chris Norwood, Executive Director of Health People, Inc. in the South Bronx, where 2% of the adult population has HIV/AIDS. "As welcome as this plan is, it would be equally welcome---and important---for the Administration to use some of the same successful strategies in the United States that it is now using overseas."
"Most prominent, even though the United States has been the major donor helping AIDS orphans in the rest of the world, it still has no planning or special support for its own AIDS orphans," she added. "And even though 'community empowerment,' which means teaching local people to be AIDS educators and leaders is the growing model internationally, in the United States, we are defunding community programs at the center of the fight against AIDS in poor communities that do just that."
Health People, founded by Ms. Norwood, is a major AIDS education and support organization in the South Bronx, the nation's poorest urban Congressional District. Health People has implemented groundbreaking peer education, prevention and AIDS education programs which received international recognition in 2005 when Ms. Norwood was one of 1,000 women from around the world chosen for a special Nobel Peace Prize nomination honoring women's local work.
"I think it's important to understand that, in clear ways, failures to undertake some of the basic strategies in the United States that we do internationally actually raises costs in the United States. For instance, when you train people who live in poor communities to teach AIDS prevention and self-care, it's cheaper and it's a way to actually reach those who most need these services. Yet, inexplicably, the Obama Administration has been steadily withdrawing funds from community organizations for these services and having clinical centers instead provide this kind of education which is incredibly expensive. It means that you pay more to actually reach fewer people."
"As for the continued neglect of American AIDS orphans---there's absolutely no excuse. We don't even count our own orphans, although it's obvious with the American epidemic that we have the most orphans and kids living precariously with parents who have AIDS of any Western nation. New York alone has an estimated 66,000 AIDS orphans or children living with a parent with AIDS. These kids obviously need some extra support and love to help them and they don't receive it!"