Some of yesterday’s highlights from the 2013 U.S. Conference on AIDS (USCA):
The Importance of Patient-Provider Conversations
Addressing a vital aspect of retention in HIV care during a plenary session, acclaimed photographer Duane Cramer and fashion designer Mondo Guerra from Project Runway—both of whom are living with HIV— highlighted the importance of continued open and meaningful communication among HIV patients and their healthcare providers. Mr. Guerra shared that from the beginning of his treatment, his doctor has been a source of confidence and, over time, he’s learned of the importance of talking with her openly and candidly not just about his HIV treatment, but also about his overall physical and mental health, work, and personal life. Reinforcing this point, Mr. Cramer urged all people living with HIV to be “open and honest” with their healthcare team so that they can be partners in tailoring a care plan that works best for him/her. This, he shared, is an essential part successfully advocating for oneself and “figuring out what tools and resources I need to take care of myself and live a healthy life.”
People living with HIV are disproportionately impacted by viral hepatitis. In fact, CDC estimates that about one quarter of HIV-infected persons in the United States are also infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). A session at the conference examined the health consequences of coinfection as well as the latest information HCV treatment and the pipeline of new treatments in development. Presenters discussed the fact that HIV accelerates the natural course of HCV infection, including the progression to cirrhosis/liver decompensation. Although drug therapy has extended the life expectancy of people with HIV, liver disease—much of which is related to HCV (and hepatitis B)—has become a leading cause of non-AIDS-related deaths in this population. Given the high rates of coinfection, both CDC and the HHS HIV Treatment Guidelines recommend that people living with HIV be tested for HCV. Presenters also discussed the broad array of new hepatitis C drugs that are in development and which have the potential to change the treatment paradigm for individuals coinfected with HIV and HCV. Finally, the panelists and participants also discussed the ways in which the Affordable Care Act, National HIV/AIDS Strategy, and Action Plan for the Prevention Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis are aiding in responding to HIV-HCV coinfection.
Engaging Youth with Social Media
I had the honor of being among the presenters in a session on using social media to empower and engage the HIV community. Deb Levine from Youth Tech Health moderated our panel and started the discussion by sharing information and statistics about the widespread and growing use of social media in the U.S. We were joined by Ian Anderson from POZ magazine , who emphasized the power of blogging and other social media tools to help amplify the voice of people living with HIV. Venton Jones from National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition (NBGMAC), and blogger Josh Robbins, the founder of Imstilljosh.com , also shared their experiences (and challenges) in using new media to share information and messages about HIV/AIDS.
Also at the conference on Tuesday, the AIDS.gov team continued providing one-on-one technical assistance in the social media lab. We’ve fielded questions from individuals seeking to get started with social media, develop or enhance a communications strategy, and monitor social media activities to enhance HIV work.