AIDS United , a national organization dedicated to ending the AIDS epidemic in the United States, recently announced $1 million in grants to seven organizations from diverse communities across the U.S. to help define and expand programs that help keep HIV-positive people in care and on treatment. The grants are part of a new $4 million multi-year Retention in Care Initiative supported by the MAC AIDS Fund .
“Over the next three years, our grantees will be developing innovative and intensive ways to work with people living with HIV/AIDS in their communities and ensure they are consistently retained in the life-saving care they need,” said Mr. Michael Kaplan, AIDS United President and CEO.
Retention in care is a critical part of the “treatment cascade”—the continuum of care from diagnosis of HIV infection and active linkage to care, to initiation of treatment and treatment adherence to achieve eventual viral suppression—meaning no detectable HIV in the blood.
Despite the significant advantages of early HIV diagnosis and treatment—both for people living with HIV infection as well as for community prevention efforts—substantial social and structural barriers often impede initial and continued access to care for people living with HIV. In fact, as discussed in prior posts, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [PDF 672KB] estimates that of the 1.1 million individuals living with HIV in the U.S., only 37% are retained in HIV care and only 25% reach the desired goal of viral suppression, which means that the virus is under control at a level that keeps people healthy and reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to others.
AIDS United made awards to programs serving highly marginalized, underserved populations at high risk for HIV infection and for dropping out of care. These include programs seeking to increase retention in HIV treatment among homeless and substance-using individuals in the Bronx, highly impoverished rural and urban African American men and women in Alabama, and transgendered individuals in Philadelphia.
“By supporting community-specific strategies to keep people in care, the Retention in Care Initiative helps advance two pillars of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy: optimizing health outcomes for people living with HIV/AIDS and reducing new [HIV] infections. By supporting programs that deal directly with the most marginalized, underserved people who are at the highest risk of infection, this partnership exemplifies our mission at the MAC AIDS Fund,” said Ms. Nancy Mahon, Esq., Executive Director of the MAC AIDS Fund (Ms. Mahon also serves as the Chair of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS).
This is a great example of the way many sectors of society are collaborating to pursue the priorities of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS). Efforts such as this will help ensure that people living with HIV (PLWH) have access to care, remain in care and on treatment and will increase the proportion of PLWH who achieve and maintain viral suppression which is critical to improving their health and realizing the full potential prevention benefits of treatment as well as achieving the goals of the NHAS. By concentrating on especially vulnerable populations, these programmatic efforts also help to reduce HIV-related disparities in diagnosis, treatment and care.
(This post is part of the ‘Strategy In Action’ series of occasional posts about how the NHAS is being implemented by non-federal partners in states and communities around the country.)