The White House brought experts on AIDS to the University on Thursday to gauge attitudes and educate the community on upcoming policy changes.

The third AIDS Strategy Implementation Dialogues, led by the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, was held in Huntsman Hall. The topic was “Sustaining the Community-Based Response to HIV.”

“The success of the strategy depends on the actions not only taken by the federal government, but also at state and local levels,” ONAP Director Jeffrey Crowley said in a statement. “We are seeking to facilitate a dialogue with our partners across the country to learn from successes and to discuss potential solutions as states and communities implement the strategy.”

This three-hour meeting sought to identify state, local and community-level HIV and AIDS issues and to foster action.

“The reason why one of the dialogues was held here in Pennsylvania is because Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, historically, have been hubs for activism in HIV and AIDS,” said Social Policy & Practice professor Toorjo Ghose, who moderated the meeting. “Philadelphia also has strong programs and organizations, such as Philadelphia Department of Public Health.”

The event started with welcoming remarks from Crowley, Regional Director of the United States Department of Health and Human Services Joanne Grossi and SP2 Dean Richard Gelles.

This was followed by an update on the government’s efforts to combat AIDS, including a overview of national strategies, collaborative efforts and priorities for the coming year.

Following the release of President Barack Obama’s AIDS strategy last summer — the first national plan of its kind — the White House has identified three main goals: reduce the number of people who are infected with HIV, increase access to care and optimize health outcomes and reduce AIDS-related health disparities.

The White House brought seven panelists from the federal, state and city public health fields who work with AIDS.

During their individual presentations, panelists identified problems and setbacks in policies regarding AIDS. They also discussed how the Affordable Care Act will alter funding for AIDS care and highlighted the importance of community-based organizations in this venture.

Each presentation was followed by questions, comments and personal anecdotes from audience members who work at community organizations or as AIDS advocates.

The event concluded with closing remarks from Ghose and Crowley.

“It was nice to hear different perspectives from various people from Philly and from the government,” Communications Manager at the Mazzoni Center Elisabeth Flynn said. “I also liked panels being honest about what seems to be working and what has been frustrating.”

Ghose hoped this event will become part of the continuous effort to come up with practical strategies against AIDS.

“There was lots of information to be disseminated, and this is going to become the single biggest change we will have since the Ryan White Act,” said Ghose, referring to the legislation enacted in 1990 to provide a federally funded program for those living with AIDS. “We are in difficult times, but there are also definite reasons for hopes and opportunities.”

The first White House AIDS dialogue was held last month in Birmingham, Ala., and the second one held last week in Seattle.

Two other dialogues will be held at Baton Rouge, La., and Des Moines, Iowa, later this year.

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