Care is Prevention
The future has never looked brighter for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in the United States. This means that by getting more and more people tested and adhering to ART we can dramatically reduce the number of new HIV infections. Like a drop of water creating ever expanding ripples, each new patient treated means dozens others escaping infection. Increasingly HIV care is becoming HIV prevention.
New research tells us that “test and treat” can work. A study conducted in 13 locations across Africa revealed that ART treatment reduces transmissibility by 96 percent.1 Studies also point out an important tenant to making care prevention: getting people into treatment as early as possible, even when their immune systems are still relatively healthy.1
This means guiding more new patients as fast as possible into the “HIV treatment cascade” including: testing for HIV; engaging in care; CD4 testing; ART treatment; and, finally, full adherence. However, there is much work to be done.
- Engagement in care. Nearly one in five people infected with HIV are unaware of their positive status.
- Retention in care. Only 37 percent of people with HIV in the United States are routinely engaged in HIV primary care.
- Treatment adherence. Only 25 percent of HIV-infected persons in the United States are estimated to have a suppressed viral load.2
These new revelations have enormous potential to change the landscape of the HIV/AIDS epidemic—and our way of addressing it. HRSA, through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, is once again leading the way. One major milestone has been the recent launch of the in+care Campaign. HRSA, in collaboration with the National Quality Center, has enlisted 465 Ryan White providers, serving 445,429 patients in what’s become the largest HIV-specific virtual health campaign in the country. The goal is to engage and retain patients into care and to constantly evaluate and improve the methods that providers use to do so. By giving grantees and providers from all across the country a forum to share best practices, successes, and data, the Campaign raises the bar and improves the health of PLWHA.
HRSA has also been at the forefront of implementing the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, through the in+care Campaign, through pilot projects and training manuals, through a HRSA CAREAction newsletter devoted to retention and best practices, and through our work at the Federal, State, and local levels. With the continued commitment of so many good people and the help of cutting edge strategies, increasing prevention of HIV infection through HIV care is no longer a dream. It is a reality.