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Conversations in 2014: HIV Care and Treatment

Carl and Ron blog 160x120As partners around the world gear up for the annual observance of World AIDS Day on December 1, we at AIDS.gov are taking a moment to look back on some of our 2014 blog posts that we thought were particularly important.  Today, we share some of our blogs about efforts to enhance the treatment and care of those living with HIV in the U.S. so that individuals can stay healthy, live longer, and reduce the risk of transmission of the virus to others:

Updated Treatment Guidelines Released. As we reported in May, the HHS Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents announced the release of the updated Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in HIV-1-Infected Adults and Adolescents and the HHS Panel on Treatment of HIV-Infected Pregnant Women and Prevention of Perinatal Transmission announced updated Recommendations for Use of Antiretroviral Drugs in Pregnant HIV-1-Infected Women for Maternal Health and Interventions to Reduce Perinatal HIV Transmission in the United States. These updates are part of HHS’ ongoing efforts to provide clinicians with recommendations based on current knowledge of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs used to treat those with HIV infection in the United States—a rapidly evolving field. In a related story CDC announced the release of a new tool to assist clinicians in treating sexually transmitted infections and preventing HIV. The STD Treatment Guidelines app gives providers easy access to the guidelines and “A Guide to Taking a Sexual History” on their mobile devices. This app is one of the many tactics CDC is using to ensure easy access to and increased usability of the STD Treatment Guidelines.

Working to Improve Health Outcomes for Black MSM Along the HIV Care Continuum. Among the many posts that generated interest on AIDS.gov were those related to efforts to assist Black gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in successfully navigating the HIV care continuum from initial HIV diagnosis to achieving viral suppression. As we reported in June, the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy (OHAIDP) hosted a webinar to highlight innovative approaches and strategies being implemented by state health departments, clinical providers, researchers, and federal partners in providing HIV care and treatment to Black gay, bisexual, and other MSM. In addition, HRSA announced the launch of a new HIV prevention and care resource and technical assistance center initiative for HIV care providers focused on strengthening engagement and retention in HIV clinical care among young and adult Black gay, bisexual and other MSM. Also, this year, our new Black Voices blog series highlighted the personal stories of young men who are working to address the HIV prevention and care needs of the Black MSM community. The series shares the bloggers’ thoughts on important topics such as stigma, treatment adherence, and using new media to amplify the response to HIV.

Examining HIV Response in the Southern U.S.  Also generating significant interest was a post by HHS’s Dr. Ronald Valdiserri that shared highlights of a White House meeting exploring the response to HIV in the 17 southern states, the region of the country where the largest proportion of people living with HIV (PLWH) resides.  Meeting participants represented many vital partners, including PLWH, community-based organizations (CBOs), health centers, AIDS service organizations (ASOs), state and local health departments, academic medical centers, and funders. Presenters characterized the HIV epidemic in the south and discussed some of the prevalent challenges to mounting effective responses to HIV in the southern states. They also highlighted a number of innovative and successful approaches by federal and nonfederal stakeholders that are improving HIV treatment in communities across the South.

Launching HIV Treatment Works Campaign. In September, we reported on the launch of CDC’s new HIV Treatment Works Campaign, CDC’s first national communication campaign focused exclusively on encouraging treatment and care for people living with HIV. The campaign features people living with HIV talking about how sticking with care and treatment helps them stay healthy and protect others. They also discuss some of the obstacles they have experienced getting into HIV care and staying on treatment and how they overcame these obstacles, offering valuable advice to others living with HIV.  An important new asset in national efforts to improve the health of people living with HIV, HIV Treatment Works includes ads, posters, banners, videos, infographics, and other resources.

Announcing $2.2 Billion in Grants to Support HIV Care Services. In October we cross-posted an announcement from HRSA about its investment of more than $2.2 billion in FY14 Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program grants to cities, states, and local CBOs. This funding will ensure that more than half a million people living with and affected by HIV infection continue to have access to critical HIV health care, support services, and medications that are insufficiently covered by other forms of insurance. As HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell observed in that announcement, “As we strive to achieve an AIDS-free generation by pursuing and accomplishing the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program serves an increasingly important role. These grants will make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable Americans living with HIV disease.”

Advances in Hepatitis C Cure. With an estimated 25% of people living with HIV in the U.S. co-infected with hepatitis C, our posts on advances in curative hepatitis C treatments were also among the particularly important news in 2014. In a highlights video interview with Dr. Valdiserri from the 2014 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, NIH’s Dr. Carl Dieffenbach observed that the new HCV treatments advances being presented at the conference had the potential to eliminate one of the key HIV co-morbidities. Subsequently, in July came the welcome news from the International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) about findings from research studies of two interferon-free treatments showing high cure rates in people with HIV/HCV coinfection. Although previous studies had shown that newer HCV treatments have fewer side effects, shorter duration of treatment, and higher cure rates, their efficacy among people with HIV/HCV co-infection had not yet been determined until the findings announced at AIDS 2014. “These scientific advances represent tremendous opportunities to improve care for people living with HIV/HCV co-infection,” observed Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases. “The research presented at AIDS 2014 brings us closer toward achieving the goals of both the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy

These posts about ongoing efforts to enhance and expand access to HIV treatment to improve health outcomes for people living with HIV and reduce transmission can inform your local conversations, events, and actions on or around World AIDS Day. We look forward to reporting on more new treatment developments in 2015 as those in the HIV community around the globe continue their work to “focus, partner, and achieve” an AIDS-free generation.

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