Howard Univ. Meets with White House to Discuss HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment Efforts

Courtesy of Howard University | 7/8/2009, 6:34 p.m.

Jeffrey S. Crowley, the White House director of the Office of National AIDS Policy and senior advisor on disability policy, met with Howard University officials on Tue., June 23 to see the advances being made by the university€s various programs to fight HIV and AIDS.

The purpose of the meeting was to illustrate to Crowley and the Obama Administration the importance of continued and increased funding for programs to reduce HIV/AIDS infections to ultimately find a cure.

Crowley said President Barack Obama is committed to improvements in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment efforts as part of his bigger push for healthcare reform.

€The president doesn€t stick his neck out on everything, but he has surely shown leadership and a commitment to change in regards to the nation€s healthcare system,€ Crowley said.

Crowley told the panel of healthcare practitioners and administrators gathered to discuss the subject, that he felt a different air of optimism around health reform legislation for this year.

€It€s not if we do it,€ he said, €but when we do it.€

When the legislation is passed and signed into law, the work of reforming the nation€s healthcare system will be far from over, Crowley said.

€It€s not going to be perfect,€ he said. €After we pass a law, there will be a lot of things needed to implement the law.€

Goulda Downer, Ph.D., assistant professor and principal investigator for the National Minority AIDS Education and Testing Center convened the meeting at the university. She explained that her group provides HIV/AIDS education, training and prevention locally, nationally and internationally with programs in the Caribbean.

It has established National Clinicians Testing Day, she explained, to help remove the stigma attached to being tested for the disease by having healthcare workers volunteer to publicly get tested on that day.

Davene M. White, director of Howard University Hospital Comprehensive Areas of Resources, Entitlement and Services, told Crowley about the success of a program to provide free cell phones to those with HIV/AIDS to get them to follow up on treatment for their illness.

Under the program, Integrated Medication Adherence and Prevention Services, the participants get 450 free minutes as long as they call their nurse manager once a week to report and follow through on scheduled appointments.

Dr. Celia J. Maxwell, assistant vice president for Health Sciences, director of Women€s Health Institute and the Center for Infectious Diseases Management & Research, talked about successes in increasing the number of people treated and screened for the deadly disease.

Howard University Hospital has been able to get more HIV/AIDS patients to come in consistently for treatment by moving their visits from a clinic setting to private offices. Patients were more likely to come for treatment in private settings than in clinics because of the stigma associated with the disease, Maxwell said.

Additionally, the hospital offers routine screening to patients and others who visit the hospital. The response has been good, she said. Of the 30,000 patients offered the service, 80 percent, or 24,000 people, agreed to be screened, Maxwell said.

Dr. Sohail Rana, pediatrician and professor in the College of Medicine€s Department of Pediatrics and Child Health and Pediatric Hematology/Oncology/HIV, talked about the importance of funding for research to fight HIV/AIDS. During the early stages of the disease, 30 percent of the babies born at Howard University Hospital were HIV-positive, he said.

Now, because of advances made with the drug AZT, doctors are able to stop the transfer of the disease from HIV-positive pregnant women to their babies.

€I€ve watched children grow into adulthood who otherwise wouldn€t be here if we didn€t have the research dollars for drugs like AZT,€ Sohail said.

Downer said she thought the meeting was €excellent.€

€What I€m hoping is that when the administration begins to develop a national strategy, Howard University will be at the table as advisors because we know how to deal with this issue,€ Downer said.