World AIDS Day, 2014

Last year, I wrote about World AIDS Day and I reflected briefly on the changes in HIV care over the years.  Once again, I want to remind you that while we have made great progress, there is much still to be done.

Here are some additional facts about HIV in the United States:

  • As of 2011, 1.2 million people in the US were living with HIV infection;
  • Only 4 in 10 people living with HIV were in HIV medical care;
  • Only 3 in 10 people living with HIV achieved viral suppression, which is the key to managing the disease (compared to 76% for those who are receiving HIV medical care).
    Check out CDC Vital Signs for more data.

The 2014 theme for World AIDS Day is “Focus, Partner Achieve: an AIDS-Free Generation.” AIDS.gov has a listing of various activities and events that are planned in association with World AIDS Day. For local activities, see AIDS Connecticut’s website.

What can you do?
Test your patients. 14% of people infected with HIV don’t know it. Patients can learn more at CDC’s GET TESTED site.
Counsel patients who don’t have HIV about how to prevent it.  More discussion of HIV prevention in the clinical setting can be found in this article in the JAMA HIV/AIDS theme issue from July 23/30, 2014.
Make sure patients with HIV get appropriate care, and take medication.  A person aged 20 diagnosed with HIV who receives current HIV medication has an average of 71 years of life; without medicines, that average plummets to 32 years.
Be a champion for organizations that provide supportive services that make it more likely to achieve the therapeutic goal. This includes organizations that provide housing, mental health services, addiction treatment, and so on. Since I practice in New Haven, I will put a shout out to Leeway, AIDS Project New Haven, the APT Foundation, and Columbus House. Get to know the organizations in your community and advocate for them!
Familiarize yourself with available resources. A great place to start is the AIDS.gov Provider Tools site.

An “AIDS-free generation”, the ambitious goal set by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), will require some new advances, most particularly a vaccine. However, we can continue to make strides in that direction by connecting people infected with HIV to the right care and services and emphasizing detection and prevention in our daily practice.

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