AIDS: Problems and Progress

AIDS: Problems and Progress

While much has been done to combat the disease in the 30 years since we heard the first reports of HIV/AIDS, the fight is far from over.

Published December 9, 2011

HIV/AIDS has wreaked havoc both here in the U.S. and across the globe. And while much has been done to combat the disease in the 30 years since we heard the first reports of HIV/AIDS, the fight is far from over.    


Domestically, AIDS research, outreach and treatment has been steadfast. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, new infections have fallen from as high as 140,000 per year to about 50,000 new infections currently. Jeffrey Crowley, Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, said, “There is no doubt that this number is too high, but it represents major progress.”


African-Americans are still disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, with Black women as much as 15 times more likely to become infected with HIV than white women. Also, Black gay and bisexual men aged 13 to 29 are the only group experiencing increasing rates of infection.  


Authorities believe the challenge lies in figuring out how to combine effective interventions with the communities who need the most help.


“We continue to be challenged to keep all people knowledgeable about this condition and how they can take steps to prevent themselves and others from becoming infected,” said Crowley. 


The Obama administration has launched the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative to target populations at greatest risk. And there are new efforts to ensure that government dollars follow the demand.  “We have begun tracking how funding is allocated on the basis of race, gender and risk factors, to provide a baseline for understanding whether funding is being appropriately targeted,” said Crowley.


The CDC has launched the Testing Makes Us Stronger campaign to focus on responding to HIV in African-American communities. And the Office of HIV/AIDS Policy is doing an inventory to assess how the government is responding to HIV in Black communities.


One more challenge on the home front is delivering ongoing treatment to everyone in need. According to the CDC, 1 in 5 people with HIV are unaware they have it and only half are receiving treatment. That’s why the CDC is promoting routine HIV screening as a part of routine medical care. The CDC has also prioritized expanded HIV screening among African-Americans through its Expanded Testing Initiative.


There’s reason to be hopeful that strides are being made on the African continent. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, began in 2004, treating 50,000 people in Africa with life-saving anti-retroviral treatment. Today, nearly 4 million receive treatment and 200,000 children were to be born free of HIV. And President Obama has pledged to support 6 million people with treatment by the end of 2013.


Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, said, “The results the American people have achieved through PEPFAR, along with recent scientific advances, give us confidence we can achieve the goal of an AIDS-free generation.”


But despite the best efforts to deliver treatment to those who need it, demand is outpacing resources. In 2005, members of the G8 agreed to provide access to anti-AIDS medications by 2010, but the World Health Organization estimates that 10 million still await treatment. Goosby explains, “Human resources gaps in resource-poor settings are a significant challenge in delivering treatment. There are not enough health care providers in most nations receiving PEPFAR support. “


As a result, PEPFAR is actively engaged with ministries of health and other partners to build the capacity of the government to create and sustain health care institutions.


Current annual funding allots $16 billion for the global fight against AIDS. But constant budget wrangling on Capitol Hill could jeopardize existing funding levels. “We are reminding Congress that PEPFAR is making smart investments to stretch every dollar to save as many lives as possible,” said Goosby.


“Today, people are back to work, caring for their families and building their communities.  It’s a remarkable story, one the American people can be very proud of,” said Gossby.


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(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Written by Andre Showell


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