The American Academy of HIV Medicine (AAHIVM) has established criteria defining what it means to be a specialist among physicians and other health care workers treating individuals with HIV/AIDS. The development of a definition of an HIV/AIDS specialist comes at a time when AIDS patients, health care providers and public health officials are attempting to address the rapid changes and escalating costs of treating HIV/AIDS.

The Academy's effort concerning HIV/AIDS specialists is among the first attempts nationally to establish a yardstick by which to measure the quality care being provided to individuals with AIDS. The Academy's definition emphasizes that the base line criteria for an HIV specialist is the ability to demonstrate Continuous Professional Development (CPD) in the area of HIV treatment. This differs from other organizations' definitions that require only that an arbitrary number of patients are seen or units of Continuing Education are completed. Other criteria that AAHIVM requires an HIV specialist satisfy are the following:

* Be a licensed Physician, Nurse Practitioner, Physician Assistant or Doctor of Pharmacology.
* Take part in on-going medical education programs (at least 15 CME or continuing medical education credits annually as well as complete a self-assessment examination; or compete 30 hours of CME credits and not be required to participate annually in an HIV Medicine Competency Maintenance Exam).
* Participate in, if receiving less than 30 credits of CME/year, a self- testing assessment program to measure core competencies (later this spring the Academy will announce the core competencies or "body of knowledge" an HIV specialist should posses).
* Treated a minimum of at least 20 HIV patients in the past two years.

AAHIVM believes this criterion establishes ``a gold standard'' by which to measure the competence of an HIV/AIDS specialist. ``Measuring competence includes defining what specialists should be capable of doing, and measuring the skills necessary to accomplish these tasks,'' according to the policy.

The development of an HIV specialist definition heralds a change in the way HIV/AIDS is managed. It acknowledges the unique role ``frontline'' AIDS health care workers play in providing patients with quality care. It enables HIV specialists to have a greater voice in the debate among public health officials and health care payors concerning the complexities (with antiretroviral therapy), time and costs (upwards of $7 billion) of treating individual with HIV/AIDS.

AAHIVM's recommendations are concurrent with research studies indicating that medical costs are lowered and better health care results when an experienced AIDS specialist physician is consulted in the care of HIV/AIDS patients.

AAHIVM's certification will be made available to all physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants or doctors of pharmacology.

AAHIVM is not affiliated with any other professional medical organization or institution and is the only independent HIV/AIDS medical association. The Academy has more than 1000 members caring directly for more than 225,000 HIV patients, more than half of all patients in on-going treatment for HIV disease.

For more information contact AAHIVM at http://www.aahivm.org .