I don’t know about you, but I feel empowered by a good plan. I can pretty much tackle any project with detailed steps and resources at the ready.
With this mentality, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. (EHE) initiative in 2019. The initiative aims to reduce new HIV infections in the U.S. by 90% by 2030.
The advances made in HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and outbreak response are the driving force behind this effort and are incorporated into a four-point, science-based, and community-driving plan. I will outline the first two in this post and follow up with the last two next week.
Step 1: Diagnose all people with HIV as early as possible
Estimates are that 1 in 7 (13%) of the estimated more than 1 million people with HIV in America still don’t know they have HIV and are unknowingly spreading the infection. In fact, 38% of new transmissions in 2021 were from partners that were unaware of their HIV status. (This is down from 80% in just 2016.) (2)
To this end, the CDC has promoted a “no wrong door” approach to testing. They aim to align efforts with primary care, well-women exams, mental health partners, substance abuse programs, and public health clinics, just to name a few.
Healthcare providers also are working towards earning the trust of minority populations, including the LBGTQ+ community and those who are undocumented, which is a key step to increasing access to care.
Step 2: Treat people with HIV rapidly and effectively to reach sustained viral suppression
HIV can be treated in such a way that viral loads, when monitored on lab work, can reach ‘nil’ or undetectable levels. When a person is undetectable, they also cannot spread the virus. You may hear the phrase, Undetectable is Untransmittable. Or U=U for short.
HIV-positive persons can live long, healthy lives and have effectively no risk of spreading HIV to their negative partners with adequate treatment.
Therefore, efforts under this step towards getting those diagnosed with HIV linked to medical care as soon as possible.
The CDC and HHS recommend everyone sexually active between ages 15-65 be tested for HIV once in their lifetime, as part of the ongoing effort to eradicate HIV.
Have you been tested? Reach out if you would like more information on your part in the plan to ending HIV in our lifetime.
(2) National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States 2022-2025\