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CDC Director Visits Alabama to Discuss Ending HIV

Holly Calloway, Alabama Department of Public Health

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield met with public health leaders in Montgomery Friday to discuss strategies to combat HIV.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Robert Redfield, met with public health leaders in Montgomery on Friday to discuss strategies to combat HIV and tour a clinic that provides health and wellness services to people with HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and other life-threatening illnesses.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration announced plans to invest more than $290 million to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. Alabama is one of seven states that will receive money through the proposal.

“Alabama is one of the states where its major HIV acquisition is in a sense more complicated,” Redfield said during a press conference, “Because it’s in a rural environment.”

According to data from the CDC, Alabama had the nation’s 11th-highest rate of new HIV diagnoses in 2017. Approximately one in six residents infected with the disease are undiagnosed. Redfield said one challenge is combatting a higher level of stigma in rural communities. He said state leaders have to “normalize” HIV so people feel comfortable getting tested and treated. He also noted the need to reach young black and Latino men.  According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, more than 70% of people recently diagnosed with HIV in the state were black.

“We don’t need to develop an initiative that keeps doing what we’re already doing,” Redfield said, “which hasn’t reached the individuals that we’re trying to reach.”

Nationwide, the goal of the Trump administration is to reduce new HIV infections by 75 percent in five years and by at least 90 percent in 10 years. It’s part of the administration’s 2020 budget, which also includes budget cuts for programs that fund treatment of HIV overseas.