Commentary: Obama's AIDS plan in timely

On June 5, 1981, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the following brief report:

"In the period October 1980-May 1981, 5 young men, all active homosexuals, were treated for biopsy-confirmed pneumocystis carinii pneumonia at 3 different hospitals in Los Angeles, California. Two of the patients died."

The implications were chilling. But who could have imagined what was to come. By the end of 2010, California will have hit a grim milestone: 200,000 people will have been diagnosed as having HIV or AIDS. Roughly 90,000 Californians already have died from the disease.

Three decades later, President Barack Obama is proposing what authorities describe as the first cohesive and coordinated strategy for combating the epidemic. Yes, it remains an epidemic. In California, 5,000 to 7,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Nationally, 56,000 new cases are diagnosed annually.

Obama's effort announced last week comes none too soon. The strategy and implementation plan will provide help to California and other states in the fight against AIDS at a critical time.

California continues to pay for medicine for 36,000 individuals who have no insurance. But because of the continuing budget crisis, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislators cut $85 million from the Office of AIDS last year. The office was forced to trim a third of its positions.

Federal money has made up some of the difference, but not all.

The president is not providing large sums of additional money to the states. But the plan, if it works as envisioned, will provide a focus for the $19 billion that the feds already spend to combat the epidemic.

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