U worries about CDC shift in AIDS funding

The CDC estimates 280,000 people in the United States are unaware they are infected with HIV.

Britt Johnsen

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s decision to shift focus from HIV prevention to educating those with the disease has left some University officials questioning and criticizing the switch.

The CDC’s decision to shift focus in HIV prevention would cause some funding for University programs to disappear, officials said.

Gary Remafedi, University Youth and AIDS Projects director, said the shift will jeopardize the group’s funding by moving it to other groups that better fit the new focus.

The University Youth and AIDS Projects promote AIDS prevention and awareness.

“This could have negative consequences on (HIV) prevention for young people,” Remafedi said.

In April, the CDC announced part of the shift includes more testing and a focus on educating those who test positive for HIV.

In January, the CDC will decide how the money for HIV prevention will be divided, CDC spokeswoman Karlie Stantson said.

The switch will help find and treat those with HIV and prevent them from spreading the disease, said CDC spokeswoman Jessica Frickey.

“We want to reduce the number of HIV infections in the U.S. and that’s our main goal,” Frickey said. “(The shift is) enhancing all the things we’ve been doing before.”

Eighty-five percent of the CDC’s HIV prevention funding will still go toward traditional prevention efforts, such as safer-sex advertising campaigns, AIDS awareness and other community programs, Frickey said.

However, Frickey said, $35 million of the $145 million used for HIV prevention will be used to advertise toward HIV-positive people, which has drawn criticism.

Because of Minnesota’s state budget cuts earlier this year, the Youth and AIDS Project has seen funding drop, and Remafedi said any further reductions could hurt the program.

After a forum Tuesday at Macalester College, Terje Anderson, executive director of the National Association of People with AIDS, said he encourages all students to get involved.

Anderson said a lack of health care will prevent many people from being tested and the CDC has unrealistic ideas about promoting abstinence until marriage, as many people impacted by HIV are gay men.

Currently, the CDC estimates that about 853,000 people in the United States have HIV. Fifty percent of those cases are people under 25, and 25 percent of those cases are people under 21.

Of the 3,000 students who responded to a 2001 random-sample Boynton Health Service survey, none responded as having HIV.

While there are no reported cases of students diagnosed with HIV, the CDC estimated 280,000 people in the United States are unaware they are infected.

Dave Dorman, health educator at Boynton Health Service, said student service fees fund the University’s HIV prevention efforts, and students must present their student identification if they want to be tested.

Boynton sees about 200 to 300 students each year for HIV testing, he said.