NEW YORK – The new US Department of Health director promised on Thursday that he would work to "bring the nation's opioid epidemic to its knees" and said he believed in AIDS Epidemic could be stopped in three to seven years.
Dr. Robert Redfield Jr. made the comments at a staff meeting of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Redfield started the job on Monday, less than a week after US officials announced they should appoint him CDC director.
The 66-year-old became the top researcher of the emerging AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. The Health Commissioners praised his appointment, but many are skeptical of a government that has been criticized for questioning the generally accepted science on climate change and other issues.
He has refused media interviews since being named CDC Director
Following a 50-minute employee meeting Thursday, Redfield said he strongly believes in vaccines and other public health policies to prevent and spread disease to stop.
He called the opioid-driven increase in drug overdose deaths "the public health crisis of our time" and emphasized the importance of providing treatment to addicts and supporting the CDC in the 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 shared 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 due to birth complications.
Redfield – who appeared with his wife Joy – seemed to be warmly received, greeted by frequent laughter and applause.
The meeting took place in a CDC auditorium, but it was also sent 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 of the controversy that came with the announcement of his appointment last week.
He did not talk about an episode that made more headlines than two decades ago when he was investigated for overestimating the effectiveness of an experimental AIDS vaccine
and he said little about his earlier writings on the importance of Abstinence as a Strategy to Prevent AIDS Compared to Public Health Strategies Condoms and distribution of needles to injecting drug addicts. In anticipation of Shepherd and Anita Moreland Smith's book, "Christians in the Age of Aids", he called on readers to "reject false prophets who preach the quick strategies of condoms and free needles."
During the meeting on Thursday, Redfield said, "I've never been a abstinence person. Ask my wife."
The Atlanta-based CDC investigates outbreaks, researches causes and incidence of health issues, and promotes prevention. It has nearly 12,000 employees and 10,000 contractors worldwide.
Redfield was formerly a professor of medical school at the University of Maryland, where he co-founded the Institute of Human Virology. He has extensive experience in the treatment of 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 influenced their ability to engage in issues such as cancer and the opioid crisis.
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