As we wrapped up coverage of the 2019 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), Dr. Jonathan Mermin and Dr. Eugene McCray joined us to share highlights of some of the CDC-supported studies presented at the conference of HIV researchers from around the world. They discussed a presentation on how molecular surveillance can help move us closer to the end of HIV and a study on trends in awareness and uptake of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men in the United States. Dr. Mermin is the Director CDC’s National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, and he is a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service. Dr. McCray is the Director of the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention in the Center.
Molecular Surveillance for Public Health Impact
They began by highlighting a plenary session presentation by CDC’s Dr. Alexandra Oster about these new tools that have made it possible to identify clusters of ongoing HIV transmission through the analysis of HIV molecular data and the promise it holds for HIV prevention. Dr. Mermin provided an overview of what molecular surveillance is and shared information on how it can be used to identify clusters and outbreaks of new HIV infections. Doing so allows state and local public health departments to respond rapidly with prevention, testing, and linkage to care services that can help halt further spread of HIV within the cluster. View Dr. Alexandra Oster’s plenary presentation, “Hugging Phylogenetic Trees: Use of Molecular Analysis for Public Health Intervention.”
Trends in PrEP Awareness and Uptake among MSM
Encouraging trends in awareness and uptake of PrEP among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men between 2014 and 2017 were the topic of another CDC study presented at CROI that Dr. McCray highlighted. The study showed that awareness of PrEP has increased significantly among men who have sex with men of all races and ethnicities. PrEP uptake, though it has increased substantially, still remains underutilized, he observed. Of particular concern was the finding that PrEP use by Black and Latino gay and bisexual men was lower compared to white gay and bisexual men. Dr. McCray highlighted several efforts underway by CDC and its partners to increase awareness and uptake among this and other populations at high risk for HIV for whom it is indicated. Read the abstract of Dr. Teresa Finlayson’s poster, “Changes in HIV PrEP Awareness and Use Among Men Who Have Sex with Men, 2014 vs 2017.”
CDC’s Role in Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America
Dr. Mermin and Dr. McCray concluded their conversation discussing how both PrEP and molecular surveillance will play important roles in Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America. They noted that NIH’s Dr. Anthony Fauci provided an overview of the proposed Plan in remarks at the conference’s opening session. Then they discussed the four pillars of the Plan and CDC’s role in implementing them: diagnose, treat, protect, and respond.
About the Conference
Over 4,000 HIV researchers gathered in Seattle this week for the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI). The conference brings together top basic, translational, and clinical researchers from around the world to share the latest studies, important developments, and best research methods in the ongoing battle against HIV and related infectious diseases. In addition to research supported by CDC, research supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was presented. Visit the conference website for abstracts, session descriptions, webcasts, and other materials being release.