HRSA Commemorates World AIDS Day

Content From: Diana Espinosa, Acting Administrator and Deputy Administrator, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesPublished: December 01, 20213 min read


HRSA's Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program honors World AIDS Day.

Today, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) commemorates World AIDS Day. It is a day when we honor those who have died from HIV/AIDS as well as the millions of people with HIV in the U.S. and across the globe. This year’s theme is, Ending the HIV Epidemic: Equitable Access, Everyone’s Voice.

HRSA is using its “voice” to increase awareness about HIV, promote health equity, and stop HIV stigma.

For more than 30 years, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) has been dedicated to helping more than half of people with diagnosed HIV in the U.S. get access to medical care, lifesaving medications, and essential support. In 2020, the RWHAP served nearly 562,000 people in the U.S. Of these clients, 89.4% were virally suppressed, which means they cannot sexually transmit HIV to an HIV-negative partner. This record-setting viral suppression rate is especially remarkable because many RWHAP grant recipients were responding to the COVID-19 pandemic at the same time. This is also an increase from the 69.5% viral suppression rate in 2010.

The RWHAP and the HRSA-funded health center program continue to play a critical role in the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. (EHE) initiative. Earlier this year, HRSA awarded approximately $99 million to 61 HRSA HIV/AIDS Bureau EHE grant recipients to link people with HIV who are newly diagnosed or diagnosed but not currently in care, to essential HIV care, treatment, and support services. HRSA also awarded more than $48 million to HRSA-supported health centers to expand HIV prevention and treatment, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) related services, outreach, and care coordination.

Our EHE-funded service providers served nearly 100,000 clients from March 2020 through December 2020, of whom nearly 19,500 (20.2%) were new or re-engaged in HIV care and treatment, which is critical to ending the HIV epidemic. Health centers also continued to serve as a key point of entry for HIV prevention services and the diagnosis of people with HIV. In 2020, health centers provided nearly 2.5 million HIV tests to more than 2 million patients and provided more than 389,000 people with access to PrEP. These statistics demonstrate that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, our grant recipients continued to provide essential HIV care, treatment, and support services to patients. I applaud our grant recipients’ incredible accomplishments, which we could not achieve without their dedication, along with our HRSA staff, and valued partners.

For 18 years, HRSA has been a key part of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). During the pandemic, HRSA received additional funds to support program activities around the intersections of COVID-19 and HIV in several PEPFAR countries, including utilizing telehealth to accelerate the provision of care.  In one of HRSA’s health centers in Zambia, patients who used telehealth to receive their HIV-related care demonstrated more than 91% viral load suppression, compared to 84% among their counterparts who attended the clinic in-person. These and other achievements continue to impact quality of life improvement for over 38 million people and prevention of over 16 million deaths under PEPFAR.

Lastly, I would like to acknowledge that this World AIDS Day follows another significant milestone in HIV history, which we recognized in June—the 40th anniversary of when the first five cases of what was later known as AIDS were first reported. We have made great progress over these last 40 years, and I know through our collective efforts across HRSA, we will continue to advance toward the goal of ending the HIV epidemic in the U.S. 

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