More than 2,400 HIV care and treatment leaders, Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program recipients, stakeholders, and those on the front lines providing direct care to people living with HIV convened in Washington, DC yesterday for the kickoff of the 2016 National Ryan White Conference on HIV Care & Treatment. The theme for this year’s Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) HIV/AIDS Bureau’s National Conference is “Forward Momentum: Accelerating Access. Optimizing Care. Transforming Public Health.”
For those of you unable to attend, check out some of the highlights from day one below.
HHS Leaders Open the National Conference
The opening plenary session included a panel of federal leaders from across the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) who highlighted powerful data on what the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program has accomplished over the last quarter century, with 80 percent of its clients retained in medical care and 81 percent having achieved viral suppression. This the result of the hundreds of Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program grant recipients from across the country in attendance and their many colleagues back home.
HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell reflected on what was so unique about the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which “transformed our response to the epidemic. It didn’t try top down but entrusted the community.” Secretary Burwell said it was this design which has enabled the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program to evolve along with the epidemic, in part with its persistent vision to center care on the patient and a health team that “could collaborate with patients to address their needs.”
Dr. Laura Cheever, the HRSA HIV/AIDS Bureau’s Associate Administrator, highlighted data from the inaugural issue of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Annual Client-Level Data Report. Dr. Cheever said, “We have a lot to celebrate here today…but have much, much more to do,” adding that agencies and staff have an “opportunity to end the AIDS epidemic and continue our successful work but to make changes as well.”
HRSA Acting Administrator Jim Macrae spoke about the agency’s strategic goals and their value as essential guides in directing the work of the agency, particularly as “we are closer than we have ever been to achieving an AIDS-free generation” because of “the hard work and dedication of thousands of people.”
Dr. Amy Lansky, Director of the Office of National HIV/AIDS Policy at the White House, presented the framework for continued advancements in HIV work, most notably the National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020, which outline goals and action plans for federal agencies, grant recipients, and others to advance their work. Dr. Lansky noted the particular contributions of HRSA staff in leading work to develop the indicators to guide and monitor progress, including new indicators in relation to stigma, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and transgender populations.
The powerful plenary session concluded with a presentation by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), who summed up 35 years of HIV science in a half hour. Dr. Fauci highlighted several pivotal studies that helped identify new insights in HIV treatment and wrapped up with the question: how do you implement these findings? Fauci said, “If the world was the Ryan White Program, we would have the end of the HIV epidemic.”
In closing the plenary, Dr. Cheever thanked everyone for a great start to the 2016 National Conference on HIV Care and Treatment, sharing that she looked forward to the continued collaboration and sharing of best practices among attendees that the next three days would offer.
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