The essential role of pharmacists in supporting the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. (EHE) initiative and the Ready, Set, PrEP program was the focus of a May 5, 2021, call between the HHS Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy (OIDP) and a diverse range of national pharmacy leaders. The call also covered federal plans for recognizing the 40th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic. Speakers included:
- Harold Phillips, Senior HIV Advisor, OIDP, and Chief Operating Officer of the EHE initiative (Newly appointed Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, as of June 06, 2021).
- Ty Bingham, Pharm.D., Rear Admiral, U.S. Public Health Service, Chief Pharmacy Officer, Assistant Surgeon General.
- Michael Hogue, Pharm.D., Dean, Loma Linda University, and Past President of the American Pharmacist Association.
Pharmacists: Crucial Partners in the Response to HIV
Pharmacists are essential to the public health infrastructure of the nation. They have played a critical role in the response to multiple public health crises (e.g., H1N1, COVID-19)—and they have the most extensive access to local communities of any health care provider. Although only about 45% of Americans live within easy access of primary health care, nearly 9 in 10 live within five miles of a community pharmacy.
The discussion focused on the role of pharmacists in helping to re-energize the local response to HIV in collaboration with other health care providers—especially in communities with limited access to health services.
Under the guidance of RADM Bingham and in collaboration with OIDP, the United States Public Health Service has established an EHEPharmacy Taskforce to help amplify community HIV efforts.
Dr. Hogue also discussed the additional benefits for pharmacists of supporting EHE: “We have an opportunity to help reduce HIV stigma by training a new generation of pharmacists to support HIV prevention and treatment,” he said.
The ultimate goal of this productive HHS-pharmacist partnership is to remove all barriers so that people with HIV, or who are at risk for contracting it, can walk into their local pharmacy and speak with a pharmacist who is ready to empower and support them to protect their health.
Forty Years of HIV and AIDS
The call also focused on the upcoming 40th anniversary of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s first official report of the new syndrome that would become known as AIDS. Thanks to scientific and medical advances, we can finally see a clear path to an end of the HIV epidemic (via PrEP and viral suppression )—and new partnerships are vital to our ability to reach that destination.
For the observance, HHS has developed Four for Forty themes to help focus national efforts toward that goal:
- #1 Reflect on the estimated 32 million people who have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the HIV epidemic.
- #2 Recommit to working with diverse partners to end the epidemic. The president’s budget contains a $670M request for the EHE initiative.
- #3 Reenergize the HIV response domestically and globally to ensure equity and regain progress lost to COVID-19.
- #4 Reengage with a whole-of-society approach.
OIDP encourages pharmacists, pharmacies, professional associations, and other stakeholders to look at missed opportunities (PDF, 193 KB) within their current systems and—where appropriate—expand their roles in supporting EHE and the Ready, Set, PrEP program to better serve their communities.
To support this revitalization effort, OIDP will provide updated materials on EHE and Ready, Set, PrEP—including social media content, infographics, and fact sheets.
For more information on EHE, Ready, Set, PrEP, and the 40th anniversary, visit HIV.gov.