World AIDS Day is a time for reflection and remembrance, for hope and aspiration, and for recommitment to our national shared vision that new HIV infections should be rare, and that all people living with HIV should have ready access to high quality care. The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) is a body of physicians, health scientists, advocates, and community servants that provides information, advice, and recommendations to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services regarding programs, policies, and research to promote effective treatment, prevention, and cure of HIV disease and AIDS. On World AIDS Day 2017, my colleagues on the PACHA and I share three ideas about HIV in the United States to mark this day.
Relevance The HIV epidemic is 36 years old, and it is as relevant today as it was when it first emerged. Our understanding of HIV and its treatment has come a long way, and we now dare envision an end to the epidemic. Even with this goal in sight, it is critical that we maintain diligence in thought and action to reduce new HIV infections and to provide great care for those living with HIV, using all the best science, medicine and interventions available.
Access HIV is a disease that has hit hard in U.S. communities where poverty and income inequality are high. The United States should lead the world in improving the health of people living with HIV and reducing new infections. Today’s best tools to accomplish this are biomedical in design, including treatment of HIV infection, which protects the health of the person living with HIV and prevents new infections, and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). We must ensure that these potent tools are available and accessible to the people and communities who need them. Ensuring ongoing access to affordable, convenient, evidence-based, and high quality health care is critical to achieving this goal.
Equity Reaching those who need HIV prevention or treatment services requires focus. There are many issues in our society, like stigma against people living with HIV, mental health, substance abuse, homophobia, transphobia, racism, mass incarceration, and gender inequality, which impede our ability to see and treat each other as fellow Americans and as fellow human beings. They distract from our shared purpose of caring for all people living with HIV, and helping all Americans know their HIV status and reduce their risk of acquiring HIV. Ensuring that all of our communities and health care settings are free from discrimination and stigma raises the spirit of those accessing needed services, which can simultaneously help improve quality of life for individuals and the general public health of communities.
On this World AIDS Day, the PACHA is thankful for the contributions the American people have made to advances in HIV treatment and prevention. We look forward to welcoming new members to the Council soon and, together, we will continue to fight HIV — a condition that is still relevant to our national health and collective well-being — by making recommendations to ensure ongoing access to the best care, and by maintaining a focus on preventing new HIV infections and caring for those in need. Through open discussion and education, we can significantly reduce stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and those at risk from the virus, make new HIV infections in the U.S. rare, and assure the ongoing provision of accessible, high quality care for those living with HIV.