- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 19, 2002

The Bush administration should develop a plan to "eliminate" new HIV infections in the United States, an AIDS council has recommended in its first advisory letter to the White House.
"We are concerned that a sense of urgency seems lacking" even with 40,000 new HIV infections in the United States each year, members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV-AIDS (PACHA) said in a May 1 letter to President Bush that asks him to "outline a plan and goal to markedly decrease new HIV infections in the United States."
"A plan with a time line for eradication of the epidemic should be developed and implemented immediately," they said, concluding the letter with a call to "eliminate the scourge of HIV/AIDS."
The panel also said they will "revisit current strategies" in AIDS prevention "to determine if they are, indeed, still the most effective methods of prevention education."
This means that the condom approach will be reviewed, Dr. Tom Coburn, one of the PACHA co-chairmen, said in an just-released interview with a national newsmagazine for homosexuals.
PACHA, which is also led by Dr. Louis Sullivan, was set up during the Clinton administration to advise the White House on HIV and AIDS policies.
The council was newly empaneled in March, with 26 Bush appointees and nine PACHA members who served under President Clinton.
In their first recommendations to Mr. Bush, PACHA members called for "public and visible leadership" on the AIDS issue.
They also called for more funding for the $810 million AIDS Drug Assistance Program, more funds for the global fight against AIDS, and an easing of Medicaid rules so more people with AIDS can be served.
In a May 28 Internet edition of the Advocate, a national magazine for homosexuals, Dr. Coburn talked about going beyond condoms as a prevention approach.
"I do believe in condoms for HIV prevention," Dr. Coburn told the Advocate.
"But I also believe in informed consent about the effectiveness of condoms. Ask any expert you want and they will tell you that condoms are not always effective, and people have a right to know this," said Dr. Coburn, an obstetrician and former Republican congressman from Oklahoma.
In the article titled "Bush's abstinence man," Dr. Coburn said that he supports sexual abstinence for unmarried persons and agreed that monogamy for homosexuals would be better than multiple partners.
"If you asked if all gay men were monogamous, would there be fewer HIV infections, the answer is yes," he said. "The consequences of non-monogamy are terrible. It tears up relationships and can make people vulnerable to [sexually transmitted diseases]."
Dr. Coburn also called for more emphasis on personal responsibility in HIV campaigns.
"If people who know they are HIV-positive, whether straight or gay, would simply take care not to give the virus to someone else, we would have 25,000 infections per year instead of 50,000," he said.


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