San Antonio physician serves on presidential HIV/AIDS panel (11-17-00)
Ernesto O. Parra, M.D., associate clinical professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC), visited the White House this fall as a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. “We met with President Clinton in the Oval Office,” Dr. Parra said. “We presented a final report for this administration regarding recommendations for the last 100 days of his presidency and for the next president.”
Highlights of the report include re-enacting Ryan White Care Act funding for treatment of individuals with AIDS, expanding Medicaid to include early intervention care in HIV-positive patients and continuing pursuit of an HIV vaccine. Infection with the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, begins the disease process that may result in manifestation of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS.
Dr. Parra, a 1981 Harvard graduate, sees HIV-positive patients at the Family-Focused AIDS Clinical Trial Study (FFACTS) Clinic at the University Health Center Downtown, and at the HIV/AIDS clinic provided by UTHSC’s Division of Community Pediatrics. He is a practitioner at the Centro del Barrio Community Health Center and teaches primary care of HIV-positive patients to Health Science Center medical students and family practice residents.
The Presidential Advisory Council is composed of 35 physicians, nurses, social workers, patients, housing program officials and community leaders. Former Congressman Ronald Dellums serves as chair. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala invited Dr. Parra to serve a one-year term ending July 31, 2001.
The September report addressed prevention and care services. “Worldwide, HIV/AIDS is out of control,” Dr. Parra said. “We are seeing it in women and children, along with the previously identified high-risk groups. It is going in another direction, and unfortunately, we do not have the cure.”
Young people are in serious danger, he noted. Nearly 60 percent of people with HIV worldwide are under 25. Half of the HIV-positive individuals in this country are under 25. “This disease is going to affect younger people primarily, especially teenagers who are sexually active,” Dr. Parra said. “The epidemic is shifting gears in the United States and is infiltrating the heterosexual and younger population. It will continue to grow. When we look at the rest of the world, at Africa and Asia especially, we see a devastating toll. We have been complacent in this country because of medicines that have been developed to manage AIDS, but we are like an ostrich that has its head in the sand.”
The United States must develop the infrastructure to prevent HIV infection in world populations and to deliver services to those already affected, the Presidential Advisory Council recommended.
Dr. Parra also participated in an Oct. 19 panel discussion on HIV/AIDS at a conference held by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Sacher in San Antonio.
Contact: Will Sansom