In the run up to the 19th International AIDS Conference this month, the Obama administration issued new guidance Saturday on their HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment policies.
"The Obama Administration is taking action to turn the tide on HIV/AIDS by strengthening the scientific investments that have revolutionized prevention and care for people living with HIV," a White House press released stated Saturday.
"We are focusing on results to save as many lives as possible. We are strengthening the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund for greater impact and sustainability."
The annual HIV/AIDS conference will be held in Washington, DC for the first time since 1990, bringing the continued importance of the issue into stark relief in the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate over one million people in the U.S. are living with HIV and one in five of those infected is unaware of it.
For this reason, testing and treatment have become the pillars of U.S. HIV/AIDS policy. The policy depends on making sure widespread HIV testing supplies and centers are available.
Under the president's 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), over 30 million Americans will have access to increased HIV testing and treatment options. This includes an estimated 3.8 million African-Americans and 5.4 million Latinos, the population groups at the highest risk for HIV infection.
Treatment as prevention (TASP), or treating those infected with antiretroviral medicines to lower their changes of spreading the disease to others, is also gaining importance in U.S. policy after new drugs have shown promise in trials.
Truvada, a once-daily HIV medication, was just approved by the FDA this week, and has shown significant promise in blocking the transmission of the HIV virus between heterosexual partners, the primary method of transmission in Africa.
In 2013, the Obama administration will further increase the domestic HIV budget to over $22 billion dollars. HIV funding has increased by $2.5 billion since 2008. Looking ahead, the administration hopes to focus on multiple areas of testing and treatment including:
- Expanding healthcare coverage to increase HIV testing rates and increase access to life-extending treatments.
- Supporting evidence-based HIV prevention efforts, including condom distribution, HIV testing, comprehensive substance use treatment, and antiretroviral treatment to protect partners.
- Working to reduce HIV related stigma and discrimination, including through enforcing anti-discrimination laws and ending denial of insurance coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
- Continuing to support a robust scientific portfolio, including research focused on the development of a safe and effective HIV vaccine and a cure.
- Focusing efforts to engage populations most at risk for HIV in the United States, including gay men and women of color.
The president will not be present at the conference, but other officials are slated to give speeches including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé.
Elton John, Whoopi Goldberg and Bill Gates, all long-time HIV/AIDS advocates, will also attend.
"The AIDS 2012 programme will present new scientific knowledge and offer many opportunities for structured dialogue on the major issues facing the global response to HIV," the conference website states.
The UN Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) released a report last week highlighting the fact that more people worldwide are receiving antiretroviral treatments, although there are still gaps in coverage especially in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Northern Africa, and the Middle East, where less than 25 percent of those infected receive treatment.
The overall number of people living with HIV increased slightly from 33.5 million to 34.2 million in 2011, a sign more that people are publicly acknowledging their infection rather than an actual indication of the increasing spread of the disease.
The 19th International AIDS Conference will be held in Washington, DC from July 22-27, 2012.
by RTT Staff Writer
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