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Sunday, December 22, 2013

WHITE HOUSE HIV/AIDS DIRECTOR MEETS WITH BEYOND AIDS DELEGATION, BEFORE LEAVING POSITION


On December 13, 2013, Dr. Grant Colfax, White House Director of National HIV/AIDS Policy (ONAP, a part of the Domestic Planning Council), met with a 7-member Beyond AIDS delegation. The discussion took place at UCLA, immediately after Dr. Colfax delivered a lecture there on "National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the HIV Care Continuum Initiative. Dr. Colfax was the third ONAP Director to have met with Beyond AIDS, over the course of two Presidential Administrations. UCLA Professor Jeffrey Klausner, who was a former colleague of Colfax when they both worked at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, arranged the session.
ONAP Director Colfax lecturing at UCLA

The delegation members provided an introduction to the past accomplishments and future goals of Beyond AIDS, as well as individual introductions. Beyond AIDS expressed support for the President's HIV Care Continuum Initiative, which Dr. Colfax had developed for President Obama and which was issued in July 2013. The delegation also offered to help keep public discussion on national HIV/AIDS strategy focused on the HIV Continuum of Care.
 Hattis presents papers to Colfax

Dr. Colfax reiterated some of the epidemiological points he had expressed in his lecture, including the 9 current goals of the Initiative, noting that the key risk groups continue to be similar to ten years ago: young gay males, blacks, Latinos, and transgender females. The discussion included the recent focus on interrupting transmission, as can be achieved through effective treatment that suppresses the virus. Ron Hattis presented a collection of Beyond AIDS policy drafts and PowerPoint presentation files for Colfax's review.

Jean Davis described the gaps in training of providers and other leaders, left by reduced funding of AIDS Education Training Centers. Gary Richwald brought up linkages of treatment and prevention. 
(Clockwise around table, from front) Jean Davis, Peggy Flanary, 
Grant Colfax, Gary Richwald, Dennis Thompson
Dr. Klausner commented on a proposed recommendation that gay males be tested every 6 rather than 12 months. Klausner suggested that the frequency of testing should depend on their number of partners. Hattis suggested that all infected persons and their immediate partners could be considered as top risk groups deserving focused attention for interruption of transmission.

Grant Colfax, center, makes a point to delegation members (clockwise around table, from 
front) Jeffrey Klausner, Peggy Flanary, Gary Richwald, Dennis Thompson, and Leith States
Ron Hattis explained that Beyond AIDS hoped to contribute ideas during 2014, for the 2015 update of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, and suggested that it could be organized around the HIV Care Continuum. Leith States, a new Fellow of Beyond AIDS' Foundation, who was part of the delegation, offered to assist with that project. Beyond AIDS was hoping to establish an ongoing communication with ONAP so as to have input during the planning process. However, Dr. Colfax indicated that work had not yet been started on a revision to the strategy.
Delegation with ONAP Director: (left to right) Jeffrey Klausner, Jean Davis, Ron Hattis, 
Grant Colfax, Dennis Thompson, Gary Richwald, Leith States, and Peggy Flanary
Only six days after the meeting, a White House official let it be known that Dr. Colfax would be leaving his position at ONAP on January 13, 2014. Unfortunately, this means that the personal relationships established in the Beyond AIDS meeting will not result in the establishment of an ongoing liaison with White House planning, and further contacts will need to be made with the next Director of ONAP.

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