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Does Bush White House Plan to Create Health Cops
for HIV, HCV, and STDs?

August 5 , 2003

Hepatitis C Intelligence Report

Hep C Alert:

The Bush White House plans to integrate Hepatitis C (HCV) and HIV/AIDS into existing programs coordinated through Sexually Transmitted Disease clinics and create "health police" for HIV, HCV, and STD "contact tracing," Houston HIV-HCV activist Ray Hill said delegates at the annual Conference on HIV Prevention were told in Atlanta this week.

Hill, one of the nation's first HIV/AIDS activists, represented the Houston Health Department's HIV Committee at the conference sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Hepatitis C is thought to infect up to 5.2 million Americans and is now four times more prevalent than HIV/AIDS. Twelve thousand Americans will die this year from the blood-borne virus.

While most medical experts believe the disease is rarely, if ever, transmitted through sexual contact, Hill said an Under Secretary of Health and Human Services told delegates that HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson has decided to "integrate" HCV and HIV prevention programs into the network of sexually transmitted (STD) clinics and programs already set up throughout the country.

"He (the under secretary) said it was a cost-cutting measure," Hill reported.

According to Hill, the White House intends to take the get money fund to program from an existing Minority AIDS Prevention program.

"In short," said Hill, "the new White House strategy is to integrate HCV, HIV, and STDs into one program based on sexually transmitted diseases, even though Hepatitis C is not a sexually transmitted disease."

Hill accused President George Bush of "catering to Pat Robertson" and other right-wing Christian coalition politicians "who want to cram their moral values down the throats of Americans."

Hill said the new White House plan for HCV and HIV prevention boils down to two categories:

* "Consolidate everything under one roof -- STDs."

* "Disease contact tracing."

Hill said HHS decided to adopt the new program based a North Carolina program.
Hill called the North Carolina program "a clear failure and a joke" designed by people who "think like Jesse Helms."

"In North Carolina, they have contact tracing," said Hill. "They tested 1400 people in STD clinics and 19 of them were found to be HIV positive and did not know they were HIV positive."

"I could line people up getting off of a Greyhound Bus and find more than 19 people who are positive and did not know it," he said.

Hill called the White House policy a "John Ashcroft, Homeland Security approach to infectious disease control."

"That means they will have to hire health cops to conduct contact tracing on people who test positive for Hepatitis C and HIV at STD clinics," he said. "That is the Bush Administration's way of doing things -- treating everything like it is for homeland security.

Hill explained that health counselors, or "disease cops," who find people positive for infectious diseases such as HIV, HCV, and STDs, will require those individuals to list all sexual contacts, or intravenous drug use experiences, for up to a given period of time.

"That is ridiculous, especially since Hepatitis C is not thought to be transmitted by sex," he said. "How can you ask someone to list sexual encounters or experiences of shooting up dope for a disease whose symptoms do not show up for five years to two decades?"

Most Americans with Hepatitis C are not aware they have the disease. Symptoms do not show up for 20 to 30 years after a person is infected with the disease, Hill pointed out.

He said the under secretary announced that the Bush Administration has concluded that the use of condoms as a means of HIV prevention is a "failed experiment." Hill said the administration insists that "abstinence" is the best means for HIV prevention.

"When we started the condom use drive," Hill said, "it was estimated that up to 200,000 a year were being exposed to HIV. Thanks to the condom programs, that number has dropped to 40,000."

"They are basically saying that 'no sex' is the only solution. They want to treat adults the same way as teenagers -- abstinence from sex until you are heterosexually married."

Hill helped develop the first HIV/AIDS pamphlet in Houston back in 1984. He was a key organizer of a demonstration at the CDC headquarters when the National Democratic Party Convention was held in Atlanta in 1984.

Hill said Hepatitis C is fast becoming the nation's latest "pandemic that the Bush administration is failing to properly address."

"This is not something that should be integrated with STDs," he concluded. "You will have very many people with HCV falling through the cracks of the STD nets."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Please contact your Representatives and Senators and tell they how you feel about this plan by the Bush White House to integrate HIV-HCV with STD programs throughout the nation.


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