Obama steps up fight against HIV

President Obama on Monday issued an executive order stepping up his administration's fight against HIV.

Obama administration officials have rallied around the promise of an "AIDS-free generation" in the United States since 2010, when the White House released its National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

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A new initiative will coordinate federal efforts to carry out the strategy, with a special focus on advancements in treatment and prevention.

"We must further clarify and focus our national efforts to prevent and treat HIV infection," Obama's order states.

The director of the Office of National AIDS Policy will lead the effort, and jointly head a related working group comprising representatives from at least six federal departments and agencies.

The group is charged with reviewing new research on HIV prevention and treatment; speaking with stakeholders, including federal grant recipients, about how to better coordinate federal efforts against the virus; and making recommendations on how agencies can align their programs.

The working group is required to submit recommendations to the president within 180 days.

"It is the policy of my administration that agencies implementing [the National HIV/AIDS] Strategy prioritize addressing the continuum of HIV care, including by accelerating efforts to increase HIV testing services and treatment along the continuum," the president’s order says. 

The 2010 strategy sets specific goals for reducing new HIV infections and improving outcomes for people with the virus.

The proposal was met with skepticism from the largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare provider in the United States, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF).

Representatives of the group criticized the White House for "empty words," and noted criticism of Obama's anti-AIDS efforts during his recent trip to Africa.

"If indeed the president has finally understood the importance of this issue and will proactively address our concerns, then we will applaud that effort, but not until then,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein in a statement.

— This story was updated at 6:15 p.m.