The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new director believes the U.S. can end the AIDS epidemic in three to seven years.
“Ending the AIDS epidemic in America? It’s possible. I think it could be done in the next three to seven years, if we put our mind to it,” Robert Redfield said in a Thursday speech to staff. Redfield’s only in his second day leading the health agency.
Redfield, a virologist who studied HIV/AIDs for much of his career at the Army Medical Corps, urged the CDC to focus on “the possible” and reiterated the CDC is “not an opinion organization.”
“We’re a science-based, data-driven organization. That’s why CDC has the credibility around the world that it has,” Redfield said.
President Donald Trump selected Redfield when former CDC director Brenda Fitzgerald resigned in scandal Jan. 31 following a Politico report she bought stock shares of tobacco companies and other healthcare firms she was charged with regulating.
Redfield’s approach to the HIV/AIDS crisis under former President George W. Bush promoted abstinence-only methods to halt the spread of the disease, which can be transmitted through sexual intercourse, his critics said.
Redfield, a devoted Catholic, has “never been an abstinence-only person,” but condoms can be part of the solution to HIV, along with antiviral drugs for those who may be at risk of contracting the disease, he said Thursday.
Nearly 40,000 people in the U.S. contracted HIV in 2016, but only 10 to 20 percent of those at risk now use what’s called pre-exposure prophylaxis. That treatment “can work to keep the virus from establishing a permanent infection” but currently is available in pill form the user must commit to taking daily, according to the CDC.