US President Barack Obama has signalled a change to his country’s HIV response by appointing a gay African-American living with HIV to a high-profile government position.

Douglas M. Brooks will lead the Office of National AIDS Policy that is tasked with coordinating government efforts to reduce HIV infections in the US.

African-American gay men are now the highest group at risk of HIV infection in the US.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2011, 40 per cent of new HIV cases amongst gay men were diagnosed in African-Americans, despite that demographic making up a relatively small percentage of the overall gay community.

Obama said he looked forward to Brooks leading the White House’s HIV prevention efforts.

“Douglas’s policy expertise combined with his extensive experience working in the community makes him uniquely suited to the task of helping to achieve the goal of an AIDS-free generation, which is within our reach,” he said.

The appointment of Brooks is being seen as refocusing of prevention efforts on African-American gay men.

The US National Minority AIDS Council said: “As the most heavily-impacted population, it is critical that black gay men are represented at the highest levels of our government’s response to the epidemic.”

Meanwhile, Obama has fired another broadside at Russia by reiterating his criticism of laws that banned the promotion of gay rights.

Speaking in Brussels on Wednesday last week, Obama said: “Instead of targeting our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, we can use our laws to protect their rights.

“Instead of defining ourselves in opposition to others, we can affirm the aspirations that we hold in common. That’s what makes us who we are.”




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