This week, NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. and District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty announced the launch of the D.C. Partnership for HIV/AIDS Progress, an ambitious, research-focused initiative designed to address the District’s HIV/AIDS epidemic.
It’s a much-needed partnership. Our nation’s capital has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the country with at least 3 percent of the city’s adults and adolescents infected with HIV. The number is likely higher as many may not know they are infected. The African-American community bears the greatest burden of the disease, representing 76 percent of D.C.’s HIV/AIDS cases.
NIH and the District are teaming up to apply research initiatives as a way to reduce the number of new HIV infections, improve the health of residents living with HIV/AIDS, and strengthen the city’s ability to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Specifically, the new partnership focuses on four research initiatives. The first involves two ongoing observational studies designed to better understand the circumstances and behaviors that place African-Americans in the District at risk for HIV infection, so that together we can develop ways for people to better access preventive services, get tested and, if infected, obtain medical care and treatment.
The second initiative is a data analysis project linking information from 13 of the city’s largest health care providers, covering roughly 12,000 District residents living with HIV. Through this linkage, we’ll see a more complete view of the clinical and treatment status of HIV-infected patients that can be used to inform effective public health strategies for the city.
Third, the partnership will enhance the city’s ability to provide specialized medical care to underinsured HIV patients suffering from other significant illnesses and co-infections. To begin, we have established three clinics focused on treating HIV-infected patients who have hepatitis B or C. We hope to expand and establish clinics that can provide medical care for other illnesses that cause significant sickness in HIV patients, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Lastly, we will examine the “test and treat” theory to see if an expanded effort of annual, voluntary HIV testing and immediate antiretroviral therapy for those who test positive for HIV infection is possible. The idea is that if we increase the number of people who get tested for HIV and get those who are infected on medication as soon as possible, we may decrease the overall HIV transmission rate in the larger population. Through a new D.C. pilot program, we’ll put that theory to the test.
For more information about the new partnership, please visit: http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/news/newsreleases/2010/DCHIVpartnership.htm.