The Goal in Place to End the HIV Epidemic

December 1st is marked annually as World AIDS Day. World AIDS Day serves as a day of remembrance for those who have died from AIDS-related complications and a moment to shed light on the treatment and prevention measures that are available. The World AIDS Day theme for the year 2020 was “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact”.

Raising HIV/AIDS awareness when we can

However, learning more about the resources available and prevention measures needed does not need to only occur on December 1st. The time to act is now! There are approximately 1.1 million living with HIV; 1 in 7 are living with HIV and have no idea.1

The national goal is to reduce the number of HIV infections by 2025 (75 percent) and end the HIV epidemic (or significantly reduce by 90 percent) in the United States by 2030.1 In order to fulfill this goal, educators, physicians, clinicians and more need to continue to use their platform to engage the community. Fortunately, today we have all the advanced tools and data to help work towards ending the epidemic.

Strategies to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic

There are four key strategies outlined to work toward ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic:1

  1. Diagnosis as early as possible
  2. Treat to reach sustained viral suppression
  3. Prevent new HIV transmissions by using PrEP
  4. Respond quickly to new HIV outbreaks

Tools that we can use

Furthermore, antiretroviral therapy has allowed those diagnosed with HIV to live a long healthy lifestyle by maintaining an undetectable viral load. In addition, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has been proven to be highly effective in reducing transmission by 97 percent in higher-risk relationships.1

Notably, thanks to constant epidemiological and research updates, the spread of new infections is being pinpointed more rapidly to stop the further increase of new transmissions. According to health officials, the data and tools available provide a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to end the HIV epidemic.”1

We can't ignore the challenges that people living with HIV face

Please note - although there is excitement about the goal to end the HIV epidemic, it is important to not be oblivious to the social challenges that those living with HIV may face.

For example, stigma continues to be a major “barrier to preventing people living with or at risk for HIV from receiving health care.”1 In addition, the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention has outlined that 80 percent of new diagnoses were transmitted among 40 percent of individuals who were not aware they had HIV or not receiving care.1 Nonetheless, interventions that have been put in place have significantly lowered the number of new HIV infections by 40,000 per year.1

A collective effort is required

There once was a time when HIV was considered a death sentence. With the right leadership set in place, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) continues to coordinate successful education programs and resources.

It is also important to highlight the need for engaging the community not just across federal agencies, but all sectors of society. This includes but is not limited to: people at risk for HIV, people living with HIV, state health departments and all healthcare facilities, faith-based organizations, academic institutions, and more.1

Today, health officials believe that, with continuous research and strategic initiatives in place, the goal to end the HIV epidemic by 2030 is very much possible.

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