PACHA Gets Strong Leader In Helene Gayle

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Will the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS become a more effective, invigorated outfit under the leadership of Dr. Helene Gayle? There’s reason to hope so—and to think that under Gayle’s stewardship, PACHA may focus on both the domestic and global challenges of the AIDS epidemic.

A pediatrician by training and currently the CEO of CARE USA, Gayle has been a forceful and dedicated public servant in the battle against HIV/AIDS for more than two decades. Gayle spent 20 years at the CDC and served as that agency’s first director for the National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention. Her work in HIV/AIDS focused intensely on women and children. She left the CDC to head the HIV, TB and Reproductive Health Program for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where she was responsible for research, program and policies on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other global health challenges.

“Dr. Gayle brings an intense commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS and unique experience in advancing public health,” said Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius in announcing the appointment yesterday. Click here and here for stories on the event.

Indeed, her work at those organizations (plus at stint with USAID) gives her a broad and deep expertise in health and development issues, at home and abroad. That diverse perspective could not come at a better time for PACHA, given the relentless march of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. and the developing world. We look forward to seeing her at the commission’s helm.

A small but significant aside: In her remarks today, Sebelius made a strong statement against the HIV entry ban and said it would be lifted soon. Here’s what she said, according to the text of her prepared remarks:

“Sometime later this year, we will strike a major blow against this stigma when we finally lift the rule —sometimes referred to as the “HIV entry ban”—that includes HIV on the list of diseases that can bar entry into this country.  This change has been a long time coming. 

The ban was not only unfair.  It was also unsafe.  The more accepted people with HIV/AIDS feel, the more open they are about their HIV status.  The more open people can be about their HIV status, the more likely other people are to get tested.  The more likely people are to get tested, the slower the spread of HIV.  It’s a virtuous cycle and it starts with ending the stigma.”

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