New Chief Executive Officer of the US Department of Health has promised on Thursday to work to "bring the nation's opioid epidemic" to its knees, saying he believes the AIDS epidemic will end in three to seven years could be.
Dr. Robert Redfield Jr. made the comments at a staff meeting of Atlanta Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Redfield began work on Monday, less than a week after US officials announced that they should appoint him CDC director.
The 66-year-old became a top researcher in the emerging AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. Health leaders praised his appointment, but many are skeptical of a government that has been criticized for questioning generally accepted science on climate change and other issues.
Redfield has rejected media interviews since becoming a CDC director.
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During the 50-minute staff meeting at the CDC on Thursday, Redfield said he firmly believes in vaccines and other public health policies to prevent disease and curb its spread
he called the opioid-driven increase in overdose deaths "the public health crisis of our time," and he emphasized the importance of getting treatment for addicts and improving the CDC's persecution of the epidemic. "We will help bring this epidemic to its knees," he said.
He also talked about his decades in AIDS research and treatment. "It is possible to end the AIDS epidemic in America," he said. "I think it can be done in the next three to seven years if we focus our thoughts on it."
He also told personal stories. One of them was how his mother raised him and his younger brother and sister after the death of his father, a government scientist, at the age of 32. Another was the death of his own son through birth complications.
Redfield – who appeared with his wife, Joy – seemed to be warmly received, greeted by frequent laughter and applause.
The meeting was in a CDC auditorium, but it was also broadcast over the Internet and over the phone to employees who could not attend. An Associated Press journalist listened.
Redfield was a finalist for the CDC director in 2002, but the job went to Drs. Julie Gerberding. On Thursday he said he was "stifled" because he finally got the chance to run CDC.
"My job is to help you make yours," he said. "I want to thank each of you for agreeing to have faith in my leadership."
He said little about some controversy that occurred last week when he announced his appointment.
He did not talk about an episode that made more headlines than two decades ago when he was investigated because he had overestimated the effectiveness of an experimental AIDS vaccine that was never broadcast
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And he said little about his previous writings on the importance of abstinence a strategy for avoiding AIDS compared to public health strategies such as condoms and distribution of needles to injecting drug addicts. In anticipation of the book "Christians in the Age of Aids" by Shepherd and Anita Moreland Smith, he urged readers to "refuse false prophets preaching condoms and free needles quick fixation strategies"
During the meeting on Thursday, Redfield said : "I've never been a abstinence person, ask my wife."
The Atlanta-based CDC investigates outbreaks, explores the cause and frequency of health issues, and promotes prevention. It has nearly 12,000 employees and 10,000 contractors worldwide.
Redfield was previously a professor of medical school at the University of Maryland, where he co-founded the Institute of Human Virology. He has extensive experience in treating HIV patients and heroin addicts and has been praised for his work in Maryland on the opioid crisis.
Redfield replaced Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, a Trump Administrator, resigned in January after about six months in office. Fitzgerald, who had previously headed Georgia's Ministry of Health, was involved in unresolved financial conflicts. Finally, HHS officials said their investments hampered their ability to engage in issues such as cancer and the opioid crisis.