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White House Sponsors Meeting on Youth and HIV/AIDS


Washington, D.C. – Today, Friday, December 4th, the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) hosted a landmark meeting on HIV/AIDS and Youth. The meeting is one of three White House-level meetings being convened to deal with priority issues related to HIV/AIDS that have emerged during ONAP’s community discussions held across the country as part of the process in developing our nation’s first ever National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS). SIECUS public policy staff attended along with members of ONAP, representatives from other HIV/AIDS and youth-serving organizations. The agenda included presentations by experts in the field of HIV/AIDS care and prevention, as well as a keynote address by Heather Higginbottom, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council.
            The NHAS is a key initiative being developed by ONAP in response to the devastating AIDS epidemic affecting the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 56,000 new HIV infections every year in the United States, and nearly one-fifth of those occur among youth. Today’s White House level meeting on youth and HIV comes after an initial meeting convened last April by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) and AIDS Action that was designed to put forward recommendations for youth and HIV as a priority population in the development of the NHAS. Since that April meeting, SIECUS, AIDS Action, and many other partners have continued to push the prioritization of youth, with a specific focus on prevention, within the development of the NHAS.  
“It will not be enough to just include youth in the NHAS; we have to prioritize them and their needs so that the next generation can be the first HIV-free generation since the disease was discovered,” said William Smith, vice president for public policy at SIECUS. “Adolescents and young adults as a group have the highest rates of HIV infection, making youth involvement and awareness in the NHAS a necessary part in the prevention of, and decrease in, HIV infection.”
 As a proud contributor to the organization and content of NHAS, SIECUS hopes to establish comprehensive sex education as a foundational strategy for our nation’s attempt to tackle the domestic epidemic. SIECUS believes that educating young people about safer sex practices, delaying sex, and reducing the number of sexual partners, as well as encouraging HIV testing and early treatment, are the key elements to achieving a HIV-free generation. With most of the Bush administration’s federal funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs eliminated from the budget, SIECUS is hopeful that the implementation of comprehensive, HIV-prevention programs as a foundation element of the forthcoming NHAS will mark an entirely new direction for how the nation promotes sexual health.  
“We support the efforts of President Obama and his fine team assembled at ONAP, as well as those throughout the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in developing the NHAS and then implementing it,” continued Smith. “Much work remains, but the prioritization of youth and the foundation of comprehensive sex education for prevention, will together chart a new course that science shows works and that has been too long held hostage by politics and the hypermoralism of extreme voices.”
For more information, please contact Patrick Malone at (202)265-2405 or