1554 Barton Road #401, Redlands, CA 92373
WHEN RED RIBBONS ARE NOT ENOUGH:
The problem, says Dr. Ronald Hattis, President of Beyond AIDS and a physician in Redlands, California, is that the public health response HIV/AIDS has been partially obstructed by politics. For example, he points out, "until 2006, HIV infections that had not progressed to the late stage of AIDS were not even reportable to public health in California and some other states in the same manner as other communicable diseases. And even now, although the information about new cases is reported by laboratories and physicians, it is still not routinely utilized by health departments to find and test persons who may have been exposed and to stop further transmission, as is done with tuberculosis and syphilis. Until 2008, HIV testing in California required special written consent and could not be easily combined with panels of other lab tests, and that is still the case in some other states. And even now, California law includes special informing requirements that do not apply to any other medical lab testing."
"Every year, on World AIDS Day, red ribbons are displayed, but they do not prevent the spread of HIV," continues Hattis. "It is time that we treat HIV/AIDS as the infectious disease that it is, and that we change our policies and laws so that we can apply the most effective techniques that work with other infections. It spreads in ways very similar to a number of other diseases, by blood and sexual fluids. It is not the only disease that takes years until it causes symptoms, or that is incurable (for example, hepatitis C shares these qualities). However, what is truly unique about HIV/AIDS is how we have treated it politically, and how we have tied the hands of our physicians and public health workers to reduce their ability to control it."
"HIV remains a public health emergency, but it has unfortunately been managed as a public health exception," agrees Dr. Cary Savitch, an infectious disease physician from Ventura, California.who wrote a book on this issue in 1997 ("The Nutcracker is Already Dancing"). Savitch first convened the group that founded Beyond AIDS in 1998, and served as its first president. Beyond AIDS was founded to combat "AIDS exceptionalism." Savitch explains. The organization has been in the leadership of nationwide efforts to improve the public health response to HIV/AIDS ever since, he continues, including the long, ultimately successful struggle to achieve name-based HIV reporting, and the more recent fight to eliminate the written consent requirement. The ultimate grand mission of Beyond AIDS, according to its Web site, is "to reverse the course of the global HIV epidemic through sound public health policy." Beyond AIDS also operates a tax-deductible foundation dedicated to education and research on HIV/AIDS prevention, including an internship program.