Written by BLC intern Julie Lee
On July 30th, 2015, the White House released the new National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020. The new Strategy outlines four main goals: 1) reducing new HIV infections; 2) increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV; 3) reducing HIV-related disparities and health inequities; and 4) achieving a more coordinated national response to the HIV epidemic. The fourth goal is a new addition to the 2015 National HIV/AIDS Strategy, whereas the previous three were goals discussed in the 2010 National HIV/AIDS Strategy as well.
The Strategy also proposes four key areas to focus on: widespread testing and linkage to care, broad support for people living with HIV to remain engaged in comprehensive care, universal viral suppression, and full access to comprehensive PrEP services.
There are also indicators tied to each goal to measure how much progress is being made on a certain goal. There are some indicators that seem very unrealistic, such as “increase the percentage of persons with diagnosed HIV infection who are retained in HIV medical care to at least 90 percent” – 53.8% in 2012 – and “increase the percentage of persons with diagnosed HIV infection who are virally suppressed to at least 80 percent” – 50.1% in 2012. These goals are meant to be achieved by 2020, though, with five percent of the total change expected to occur in each of the initial three years (2011-2013), ten percent for the next four years (2014-2017) and fifteen percent for each of the final three years (2018-2020).
Regarding changes from the previous National HIV/AIDS Strategy to the new National HIV/AIDS Strategy, the new one seems to put more emphasis on providing PrEP and focusing on populations and areas with the greatest burden of HIV. I think that while full access to comprehensive PrEP and PEP services is important, it is equally important to increase public awareness of PrEP and PEP – a lot of people aren’t aware that they exist, let alone how effective they are at preventing HIV infection.
As I begin to wrap up my internship, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned. I feel that I know a lot about HIV – compared to what I knew at the beginning of my time here at the BLC. Or, at the very least, I know enough to read the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and be able to fully understand it, and even point out targets that seem unrealistic and areas that lack attention. It feels very rewarding to realize that I have made progress, and I feel grateful for having been given the opportunity to learn so much about HIV and the wonderful community we have here to provide support through living with HIV.