Mapping Pathways is a multi-national project to develop and nurture a research-driven, community-led global understanding of the emerging evidence base around the adoption of antiretroviral-based prevention strategies to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The evidence base is more than results from clinical trials - it must include stakeholder and community perspectives as well.

03 April 2012

Statements from New US AIDS Policy Director, Dr. Grant Colfax, Causes Mixed Reactions

via The Colorado Dependent, by Todd A. Heywood

With a president who has declared the end of AIDS is in reach, Dr. Grant Colfax has a massive job in front of him. But his first interview with The American Independent has some activists challenging his take on controversial elements of the epidemic impacting an estimated 1.2 million Americans.
The former director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health HIV programs was appointed by President Barack Obama to run the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP), March 14.

In a brief phone interview with The American Independent, Colfax praised the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) and said he was looking forward to implementing the plan. NHAS was released by the Obama administration in July of 2010 and is the first time in the 30 year history of the epidemic that the federal government has developed a comprehensive plan to address HIV in the United States.

HIV-specific criminalization

A key segment of the plan calls for addressing HIV-related stigma and discrimination, including addressing the bevy of HIV-specific criminal state laws that activists have identified as stigmatizing.

“Certainly, criminalization is one of the issues we’ll be looking at as we engage stakeholders in a broader conversation about how stigma and discrimination are contributing to HIV risk and core health outcomes,” Colfax said.

Asked what his personal take on criminalization and its impact on the HIV epidemic was, Colfax demurred.

“I think it’s really premature for me to speak specifically about that beyond what I just said,” Colfax said.

That response did not sit will with activists.

“Dr. Colfax’s boiler-plate reaction to the criminalization issue is disappointing,” said Catherine Hanssens, executive director of the Center for HIV Law and Policy, which houses the anti-HIV criminalization group Positive Justice Project. “Prosecuting and incarcerating people with HIV for years and decades for consensual and no-risk conduct is a profoundly serious form of discrimination that has been stigmatizing people with HIV for decades.”

Sean Strub, a board member for the Global Network of People with HIV– North America, was also disappointed.

“To have any discussion about stigma that doesn’t start with removing HIV-specific criminal statutes is hollow,” Strub said. “Those statutes, which create a viral underclass, are the most extreme manifestation of stigma.”

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[Content that is linked from other sources is for informational purposes and should not construe a Mapping Pathways position.]

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