Britt Rios-Ellis, a health science professor at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB), has begun her work as a member of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Advisory Committee on HIV and STD Prevention and Treatment. The acronym for the committee is CHAC.
In addition, Rios-Ellis has been elected to the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) CHAC Disclosure Work Group.
Invited to serve on the committee by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Rios-Ellis will complete a four-year term with CHAC, which is responsible for advising Sebelius, the director of the CDC and the administrator and associate administrator for HIV/AIDS, HRSA, regarding the U.S. government’s objectives, strategies, policies and priorities for HIV and STD prevention and treatment efforts.
“I was honored to be nominated and to accept this federal appointment,” said Rios-Ellis, who also serves as director of the campus’ National Council of La Raza (NCLR)/CSULB Center for Latino Community Health, Evaluation and Leadership Training. “This advisory group brings together the CDC, responsible for HIV prevention, and HRSA, charged with supporting and innovating HIV/AIDS care and treatment services.”
“Under President Obama, we are witnessing a time of great change when the Affordable Care Act and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy are being implemented just as new methods of HIV prevention are coming available,” she added. “I am honored to serve in an advisory capacity at this particularly critical point in our nation’s fight against HIV/AIDS.”
For more than two decades, Rios-Ellis has been working in HIV/AIDS with a particular emphasis on Latino communities. Her dissertation involved Latina migrant adolescents and HIV/AIDS risk, and since 1999, she has worked with the National Council of La Raza on its HIV/AIDS work with organizations throughout the United States and Puerto Rico to prevent HIV/AIDS in some of the nation’s most underserved populations.
“As the director of the NCLR/CSULB Center of Latino Community Health, I hope that I can serve as a voice to ensure that the undocumented and legal residents ineligible for health care, due to the five-year waiting period post residency, have access to prevention information, testing and services,” Rios-Ellis noted. “Nationwide, Latinos are the most likely to test late, have an AIDS diagnosis within a year of learning of their HIV positive status, and die within 18 months. Early detection failure rates among Latinos and other underserved populations are exceptionally high and if the goals of the National AIDS Strategy are to be met there must be access for everyone.”
Rios-Ellis also pointed out that for the first time in the course of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the United States has an opportunity to frame and respond to the disease along a continuum that recognizes that people move from not being at risk, to at risk, to needing diagnosis, to care and treatment in order to thrive. In its advisory role, she said, CHAC can help federal agencies better coordinate and support state and local jurisdictions in their response to HIV/AIDS.
“From a purely public health perspective, I recognize that prevention, testing and treatment for all has immense fiscal and moral benefits,” Rios-Ellis explained. “I am committed to ensuring that communities most likely to be excluded from health care and HIV/AIDS prevention have access to a safety net so that we can stem the tide of the epidemic for everyone.”