By Carolyn Stransky
Lesley J. Craig’07, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regional resource network programmer, gave a talk on Wednesday, Nov. 30, about HIV in the United States and the National HIV/AIDs Strategy (NHAS).
Craig opened by describing how the U.S. is at “HIV at 30.” It has been 30 years since the first diagnosed case of HIV was recorded in the U.S. Now, nearly 1.2 million people in the U.S. have HIV/AIDS, with an estimated 20 percent living undiagnosed.
In the U.S., white men having sex with men were the subpopulation with the greatest number of new cases as of 2009, followed by black men having sex with men. Despite this, the overall rate of HIV for blacks is eight times greater than that of whites. In Wisconsin alone, 73 percent of reported HIV cases involved men having sex with men, 43 percent white and 42 percent black.
Craig shared the NHAS vision and a quote from President Barack Obama stating, “When one of our fellow citizens becomes infected every nine-and-a-half minutes, the epidemic affects all Americans.”
There are three primary goals in the NHAS. The first is to reduce HIV incidences through outreach, education reducing transmission by 30 percent and increasing the percent of people living with HIV who know their status from 79 to 90 percent.
The second goal is to increase access to care and optimize health outcomes. This can be accomplished by immediately linking patients to care, increasing the number and diversity of available care providers and providing comprehensive support, such as housing and case management.
The last goal, and in Craig’s opinion the hardest to accomplish, is to reduce HIV-related health disparities. This includes reducing HIV-related mortality, adopting community level approaches to reduce infections in high-risk areas, and reducing stigma and discrimination against people living with the disease.
Craig concluded her talk with the idea of prevention. As of now, only about four percent of the HIV/AIDS budget goes into prevention while the rest goes into care. “We are a very care-oriented country, and we need to find a balance,” said Craig. She mentioned various prevention tools such as education, testing, condoms (as well as new research including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), microbicides in the form of vaginal gel) and the idea of treatment as prevention.
Those interested in getting involved are encouraged to visit http://www.AIDS.gov.