We’ve all heard about AIDS. We know the devastation, the tragedy, the loss of human life. It happens everywhere. But often times the face attached to the disease is that of an African woman, maybe holding her child, looking sullenly at the camera. High infection rates in many countries in Africa have created this type of typical imagery. But according to the most recent reports from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV infections in areas of Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD have higher HIV infection rates than many African countries.

While there are still many problems with the PEPFAR funding many Third World countries are receiving, it is a step in the right direction. But what about Baltimore, DC and many of America’s inner cities? It seems THEY also need a PEPFAR plan to help slow infection rates, teach comprehensive sex education, and focus attention on prevention measures. By helping individuals protect themselves from infection, we are also decreasing the costs of healthcare nationwide, because keeping HIV negative people healthy is a lot easier and cheaper than keeping people who are HIV+ and especially those who have AIDS healthy. Robert Gallo, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, talks about the importance of a PEPFAR plan in the US in his most recent article in the Washington Post on November 16th, which could “help build clinical infrastructure for diagnosis and treatment in inner cities.” He also explains that “Federal and state officials have already allocated enormous sums to fight bioterrorism. But in the past seven years, more Americans have been the vicitms of HIV/AIDs that have been affected or killed vt any bioterrorist attack.” Robert is exactly right: the US needs a program that effectively teaches people, young and old, about prevention, early detection, and encourages people to get tested regularly. Gallo makes an important point I think resonates loudly; “As long as socioeconomic conditions prevail, those living in HIV/AIDS ‘hotspots’ without education about the disease and facing other life challenges – such as mental illness, drug abuse, homelessness and lack of health insurance – will be at risk even if we do develop an AIDS vaccine.” Gallo’s point is well taken. While he is an expert, and has been a leader in the discovery of HIV’s correlation to AIDS and the development of the HIV blood test, most Americans could tell you this equation: where poverty and drug use levels are high and education levels low, HIV infection is high. Thus we MUST develop a comprehensive program to effectively fight AIDS in the US (especially the inner cities) or else we will be facing a much worse situation in the coming years.

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