Addressing Social Drivers at the US Department of Health and Human Services

We need to treat the whole person, not the virus.

Ron Valdiserri, of the US Department of Health and Human Services, described initiatives underway to address the social determinants of health for people living with HIV. Valdiserri explained that many successful initiatives up to this point were funded through either the Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund (SMAIF) or HRSA’s Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS), both of which were at risk at the time of the Summit.

Turning his focus to social drivers, Valdiserri praised the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program as being the only federally-funded program to embrace the importance of nutrition and food services as integral to primary care. He highlighted Ryan White’s collaboration with HOPWA to create an integrated database to better understand client needs.

“At a policy level,” Valdiserri said, “we tend to forget that employment is a fundamental way to support health.” That’s why his office is funding a new demonstration project to develop comprehensive models of HIV prevention and care for gay and bisexual men, which include counselling, access to housing and employment services. The office is also funding development of clinical guidelines and training opportunities related to intimate partner violence, and has launched an online self-study course for family planning providers. Valdiserri noted that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has also released a Treatment Improvement Protocol on trauma-informed care, and that stigma training activities for community health centre staff were underway.

Valdiserri emphasized that, until we address the social drivers of HIV, we will not be successful in meeting the goals of the national strategy.

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