Office of National AIDS Policy Blog

  • Recognizing National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness day

    In recognition of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day – February 7, Dr. Kevin Fenton, Director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention released the following message:

    On this National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we have greater opportunity than ever before to reverse the HIV epidemic in Black America and the nation as a whole.

    Today, we have a National HIV/AIDS Strategy that directs the nation to focus its prevention efforts on communities at greatest risk, including African-Americans – the racial group most severely impacted by HIV.  We have an African-American community that is mobilized like never before, with many of the nation’s longstanding black national organizations making HIV prevention a key priority.

    Over the past several years, we have also witnessed tremendous breakthroughs in HIV prevention that can help alter the course of the epidemic. Rates of HIV testing are growing and are at an all-time high. Yet research now shows that early treatment not only provides improved health and much longer lives for people living with HIV, but it also can reduce their risk of passing the virus to partners by 96 percent. And new prevention tools – like a daily pill – have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of HIV infection in some high-risk populations, when combined with other prevention measures.

    Now despite these important advances, the fight against this disease is far from over. The harsh reality is that today, even in the face of great hope and promise, African-American communities continue to be devastated by HIV.  Although only 14 percent of the U.S. population, African-Americans account for almost half of those living and dying with HIV/ AIDS in this country.

    And HIV touches every corner of the black community and the impact of HIV has been especially devastating among black youth.   Approximately 40 percent of new infections among blacks are now occurring among those aged 13 and 29 years. Young black gay and bisexual men are the most severely affected, experiencing a nearly 50 percent increase in new HIV infections over the past few years. In addition, HIV is now the third leading cause of death among black women in the prime of their lives – those aged 35 to 44 years.

    Now to turn the tide on this epidemic, we must confront the complex social and environmental conditions that help fuel the HIV epidemic in African-American communities. Lack of access to health care plays an important role.  We know that those who don’t have the means to see a doctor may not get an HIV test or HIV treatment until it’s far too late. We also know that nearly one in five African-Americans are without health insurance.

    Where you live and where you choose your sexual partners also has a significant impact on your HIV risk. Higher rates of HIV that exist in black communities and the fact that African-Americans tend to select partners who are of the same race increases the likelihood of being exposed to HIV infection with each sexual encounter.

    Homophobia and stigma – far too prevalent in many communities – prevents too many in the black community from getting tested, and if HIV positive, from getting treated.

    HIV prevention in black communities remains one of our top public health priorities.  Last year, for example, CDC invested more than half of its HIV prevention budget to fight HIV among African-Americans. We’ve expanded initiatives to reach more African-Americans with HIV testing and increased the number and reach of HIV prevention programs in black communities.  We are working with our partners, like those in the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative, to launch campaigns and undertake activities aimed at increasing HIV testing and awareness among black women and black gay and bisexual men, among other groups.

    Yet together we have much more work to do.  Today, I call on the faith community, the public health and community leaders, teachers, parents and business leaders – both within and outside black communities – to maximize the powerful tools we now have at our fingertips and to work together to bring this epidemic to an end.

    I also urge each of you to do your part. Get tested for HIV.  If you are sexually active, use condoms consistently and correctly to protect yourself and your partners. If you are a person living with HIV, get and stay in treatment and take the necessary steps to prevent HIV transmission to your partners.  You can learn more at www.actagainstaids.org. We can end this crisis. And we must remember that HIV is completely preventable. By working together, we can put an end to this epidemic in our lifetimes.

    For more information, visit AIDS.gov

    James Albino is the Senior Program Manager in the Office of National AIDS Policy

  • Persistence, Promise, and Hope for the End: A New Year’s Message

    Ed. Note: Cross-posted from blog.AIDS.gov

    In the tumult of the holiday shopping, seasonal traffic delays, and endless bowls of eggnog, it was easy to miss the news that Science—one of the world’s leading scientific research journals—had chosen an HIV-related clinical trial as its 2011 Breakthrough of the Year. I caught that news while trying to wrap up some last-minute items, and, later, I took a moment to reflect on this announcement. This was perhaps the first time in many years that Science magazine had featured an issue related to HIV/AIDS research so prominently on its cover. I would like to highlight the importance of that piece of news and share some perspective on what it might mean for the future.

    In the December 23 issue, Science said: “The year 2011 saw scientific research that stretched from the farthest reaches of the universe to the deepest mysteries of the cell. Following a yearly tradition, Science‘s editors and news staff have selected one Scientific Breakthrough of the Year and nine runners-up.” Their choice was the HPTN 052 clinical trial, an international HIV-prevention trial sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

  • A Focus on Women and AIDS: Nationally and Abroad

    “When black women feel forgotten, even though they account for most of the new cases among women, then we’ve got to do more."  --President Obama, December 1, 2011

    December 1 marked World AIDS Day, a time to remember those that have been affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic over the past 30 years. Today, we must also continue to recognize and push forth the efforts to aid individuals affected across the globe. In recent years, we have seen success in programs such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, but we must remember the toll this disease takes on our women, and ultimately our communities. Although rates of HIV/AIDS have been decreasing across many countries, there are many factors that have kept women and girls at risk. Globally, many prevention efforts and treatments still need to be successfully implemented in order to change uneven progress in the health of the world’s women and girls. With the world facing many battles, young women in many parts of the world are still becoming infected with HIV/AIDS. As of today, HIV is the leading cause of death and disease among women aged 15 to 49 years worldwide. Domestically, rates in many communities continue to effect women disproportionately, in better words: we’ve got to do more. President Obama and his Administration are committed to solving the AIDS crisis; an epidemic that has put women, and their families, at great risk.

    During his speech at an event called “The Beginning of the End of AIDS,” at George Washington University, marking World AIDS Day, the President announced that the Administration is directing $50 million in increased funding for domestic HIV/AIDS treatment and care. The data shows a clear need for this increase in funding.  According to 2009 HIV surveillance data by the Centers for Disease Control, women represented 24% of all diagnoses of HIV infection among United States (US) adults and adolescents in 40 states. Black and Latina women are disproportionately affected at all stages of HIV infection compared with women of other races/ethnicities. At some point in her lifetime, 1 in 139 women will be diagnosed with HIV infection; with Black and Hispanic/Latina women at higher risk than women of other races/ethnicity.

    Over the past several years, the global HIV/AIDS epidemic has been met with increasing efforts across the international community and shown great potential. As stated by the Office of Women’s Health, numerous initiatives to promote prevention and treatment efforts have been implemented by governments and organizations worldwide. They have also noted that, in 33 countries, HIV incidence has dropped by more than 25 percent over the past decade; 22 of those countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. Even with these improvements, we must remember that challenges still remain.

  • Getting to Zero on World AIDS Day

    Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (132MB) | mp3 (13MB)

    Watch President Obama's full remarks here.

    President Obama today marked World AIDS Day, speaking at an event called "The Beginning of the End of AIDS" where he outlined the progress that has been made in the global fight against the pandemic:

    Because we invested in anti-retroviral treatment, people who would have died, some of whom are here today, are living full and vibrant lives. Because we developed new tools, more and more mothers are giving birth to children free from this disease. And because of a persistent focus on awareness, the global rate of new infections and deaths is declining. So make no mistake, we are going to win this fight. 

    AIDS has claimed 30 million lives over the past three decades, and while the rate of new infections is going down in many countries, the President acknowledged that it is not declining in America:

    The infection rate here has been holding steady for over a decade. There are communities in this country being devastated, still, by this disease. 

    When new infections among young black gay men increase by nearly 50 percent in 3 years, we need to do more to show them that their lives matter. When Latinos are dying sooner than other groups, and when black women feel forgotten, even though they account for most of the new cases among women, then we’ve got to do more.

    So this fight is not over. Not for the 1.2 million Americans who are living with HIV right now. Not for the Americans who are infected every day. This fight is not over for them, it’s not over for their families, and as a consequence, it can’t be over for anybody in this room -- and it certainly isn’t over for your President.

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    President Barack Obama delivers remarks on World Aid's Day event at George Washington University in Washington, Dec. 1, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    The President announced that he is directing $50 million in increased funding for domestic HIV/AIDS treatment and care -- an additional $15 million for the Ryan White program for HIV medical clinics across the country. and an additional $35 million for state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. He also pledged that America will continue to be a leader in the global fight against the pandemic: 

    Now, as we go forward, we’ve got to keep refining our strategy so that we’re saving as many lives as possible. We need to listen when the scientific community focuses on prevention. That’s why, as a matter of policy, we’re now investing in what works -- from medical procedures to promoting healthy behavior.  

    And that’s why we’re setting a goal of providing anti-retroviral drugs to more than 1.5 million HIV-positive pregnant women over the next two years so that they have the chance to give birth to HIV-free babies. 

    We’re not going to stop there. We know that treatment is also prevention. And today, we’re setting a new target of helping 6 million people get treatment by the end of 2013. That’s 2 million more people than our original goal.

    Today’s event was sponsored by the ONE and (Red) campaigns and also featured remarks from Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, via satellite. 

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    Musician Bono, center, listens as President Barack Obama delivers remarks at a World AIDS Day event at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Dec. 1, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • New Update: Registering for the NHAS Implementation Dialogues

    In earlier blog posts we outlined the topic and format for a series of regional dialogues that the White House Office of National AIDS Policy will convene to focus attention on issues related to implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.  These events will be a forum for Federal, state and local agency representatives, researchers, clinicians, the HIV community, and leaders from the business, foundation, faith and media sectors to share their diverse expertise, and collaborative experience. 

    The events are free, open to the public, anyone can attend.  To help us better plan each event we ask  that you register in advance for each of the events that you are interested in attending.  You may register for as many events as you wish to attend.

    Register now.

  • Using National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) to Redouble Our Efforts to Respond to the HIV Prevention and Care Needs of Latinos

    According to CDC estimates, 9,400 Latinos in the United States were newly infected with HIV in 2009.  Latinos make up 16% of the U.S. population, but approximately 20% of new infections.  Sixty-four percent (or nearly two-thirds) of all HIV infections in the Latino community occur among gay and bisexual men.  Among women, 1,700 heterosexual Latinas became infected in 2009, making them more than four times more likely to become infected with HIV than white women.

    As Latinos working to support the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS), we see our families and friends living with HIV and some who are newly infected, and we look at these numbers with a sense of both sadness and urgency.  In this 30th year of the AIDS epidemic, it is completely unacceptable that HIV infection rates among Latinos are so high.

    National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) gives us an opportunity to re-examine the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on Latinos, and to redouble our efforts to find effective ways to respond to the epidemic in the U.S.

    The NHAS is helping us to do this by requiring us to focus on three important goals: reducing HIV incidence; increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV/AIDS; and reducing HIV-related health disparities. The NHAS also calls on all of us to target our collective efforts at the populations at greatest risk.  Latinos are not only disproportionately impacted, they also tend to be diagnosed later in the course of their HIV infection—meaning that they are more likely to develop AIDS within a year of their diagnosis.  According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Latinos progress more quickly to AIDS after an HIV diagnosis than any other U.S. racial or ethnic group. Exciting new research data has been published this year showing how effective HIV treatment can be at stopping HIV transmission and current drugs are helping HIV positive individuals lead long and healthy lives.  If Latinos are being diagnosed with advanced HIV infection and are quickly progressing to AIDS, they are missing important opportunities to get the maximum benefits of the highly effective treatments we currently have available.