Office of National AIDS Policy Blog

  • HIV Impact on Gay and Bisexual Men: The 4th Decade

    Today is National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NGMHAAD), an observance that reminds us that HIV continues to take a heavy toll on gay and bisexual men across the United States. Even after more than 30 years of AIDS, this community remains at the center of the U.S. epidemic.

    Men who have sex with men (MSM) represent 2% of the U.S. population but more than 60% of new infections and half of all Americans living with HIV. Rates of new HIV diagnoses among MSM in the United States are more than 44 times that of other men. Especially at risk are young MSM (ages 13-24 years), the only risk group where new infections are increasing, with a 22% increase in recent years. Young Black MSM are most affected accounting for 55% of new infections among YMSM overall.

    Since 2010 and the White House release of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) followed by the implementation plan, we have continued to follow the road map to reduce new HIV infections, increase access to care, improve health outcomes for persons living with HIV, and address HIV-related health disparities. Last week, senior leaders from across HHS agencies, including CDC, took part in a public meeting to review progress toward achieving the goals of NHAS. There is much good news.

  • HHS Releases Report on 2012 Progress Implementing the National HIV/AIDS Strategy

    Ed. Note: This is cross-posted from the AIDS.gov blog. You can see the original post here.

    Last Friday, September 20, 2013, the Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy (OHAIDP) was pleased to host a number of HIV/AIDS leaders from across the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as well as many non-federal stakeholders as we paused to recognize and reflect on major accomplishments across HHS in implementing the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. During the meeting, we released the 2012 HHS National HIV/AIDS Strategy Progress Report [PDF 596KB]. This is our second annual progress report. It highlights just some of the many important actions taken by HHS operating divisions and offices during 2012, underscoring the breadth and diversity of those activities—from research, regulation, and policy making to prevention services, training, public awareness, and grant making—that have helped advance us toward the Strategy’s goals.

    Opening the meeting, Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health, remarked on the importance of such opportunities to pause and take stock and in so doing, re-charge and re-affirm our dedication to the Strategy’s goals. He observed that the report illustrates that since the Strategy’s release three years ago, HHS agencies and offices have “stretched, found new ways to connect, work across agencies and programs, and get greater impact for our programs and the people at risk for and living with HIV that we serve.” He also recognized that the progress to date toward the Strategy’s goals has been “a true community collective effort,” involving individuals and organizations from across sectors, including state and local health departments, community-based organizations, health care providers, people living with HIV/AIDS, and many others who have made major contributions to our collective efforts.

  • Addressing the Intersection of HIV/AIDS, Violence against Women and Girls, and Gender-Related Health Disparities

    Today we are proud to announce the release of the report by the President’s Working Group on the Intersection of HIV/AIDS, Violence against Women and Girls, and Gender-Related Health Disparities. We have had the honor of serving as co-chairs of the interagency Federal Working Group since March 2012, when President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum to address two overlapping challenges to the health and wellbeing of communities across the United States: the effects of HIV/AIDS, and the alarming rate at which women and girls experience violence.  

    More than 1 in 3 women in the United States has experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in her lifetime; of these women, 69% report experiencing intimate partner violence at age 25 or younger, and 22% experience IPV for the first time as girls between the ages of 11 and 17 years.  Furthermore, approximately 280,000 women in the United States were living with HIV in 2009, with an estimated 15% unaware of their status.  Women account for 20% of new HIV infections in the United States, with over three-quarters of these new infections occurring among black and Latina women.

    By themselves, these statistics represent a compelling call to action, but the particular prevalence of intimate partner violence among women living with HIV further reinforces the need to address the intersection of HIV/AIDS and violence against women and girls: 56% of women living with HIV, compared to the national prevalence of 36%, have experienced violence by an intimate partner.

    Given these data, the Working Group established by the Presidential Memorandum was tasked with developing actions for evidence-based, culturally relevant steps for Federal agencies to address the barriers to care and prevention for both HIV and violence. The culminating report charts a path forward to improve collaboration among agencies by leveraging federal resources in support of the health and wellbeing of women and girls, particularly those living with or at high-risk for HIV/AIDS and violence. The report’s action steps include: a focus on research and data collection to evaluate existing programs; ideas to develop new strategies for intervention; and expanded efforts to empower women and girls, as well as engage men and boys, in the prevention of violence and HIV risk.

  • The Next Step of the HIV/AIDS Strategy

    Editor's note: This post was originally posted on The Huffington Post. You find it here.

    Three years ago, President Obama announced an historic comprehensive plan to help turn the tide on HIV/AIDS in the United States: the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. The Strategy has given a new sense of direction, and purpose in our fight against HIV and AIDS.

    Since the Strategy’s release, scientific developments have advanced our understanding of how to best fight HIV.  We now understand that to prevent long-term complications of HIV, treatment is recommended for all adults and adolescents living with HIV in the United States.

    This is a significant shift; previous recommendations were to hold treatment until people showed signs of immune decline. Recent research also shows that an important benefit of earlier treatment is that it dramatically reduces the risk of HIV transmission to partners.  Furthermore, HIV testing technology is faster, and more accurate than ever before, and HIV drug treatment is less toxic, and easier to administer. 

    All of this has powerful implications for how we focus our efforts. 

    And there is a clear need to do so: data released since the Strategy shows that along the HIV continuum of care-- which is the progression from diagnosis to receiving optimal treatment -- nearly 200,000 persons living with HIV in the United States are undiagnosed, and only 1 in 4 has the virus under control.

    Today we are thrilled to announce two new developments specifically focused on addressing many of the factors that lead people to fall out of the continuum of care.

    First, President Obama signed an Executive Order creating the HIV Care Continuum Initiative.

    The Initiative directs Federal agencies to prioritize addressing the continuum of HIV care, by accelerating efforts and directing existing federal resources to increase HIV testing, services, and treatment, and improve patient access to all three.

  • Take Action: Get Tested

    Today, in a statement, the President highlighted the importance of HIV testing:

    "Today is National HIV Testing Day, when we encourage people across the United States to get tested. Early detection and treatment for HIV saves lives, and yet over half of adults in the United States have never been tested. Nearly one in five people living with HIV in this country doesn’t know his or her status. That delays treatment,  increases the risk of transmission, and sets us back in our fight  against the epidemic. 

    Getting an HIV test is easier and faster than ever. And this past April, the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommended that everyone between the ages of 15 and 65 get screened for HIV as part of their routine health care. That means, under the Affordable Care Act, new health care plans will be required to cover HIV testing without any additional out-of-pocket costs.

    But more Americans still need to decide to take the test.  We know from experience here at home and around the world that HIV testing opens the door to treatment, reduces the spread of the virus, and helps people lead longer, healthier lives.  That’s why, on a trip to Africa in 2006, Michelle and I were tested for HIV – because there should be no shame or stigma associated with knowing your status.  And if we each do our part by getting tested – and encourage our friends and family to do the same – then we will move closer to an AIDS-free generation."

    As the President pointed out, getting tested is about taking action – so take the time and get tested.

    To see a video from me on the importance of getting tested, click here. To see a video from the President’s trip to Africa in 2006, click here.

    Ask your healthcare provider for the test. Or find the nearest HIV testing center to you.

    Grant Colfax, MD is the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy

  • May 19th is National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

    As we celebrate Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Heritage Month and the many accomplishments of AAPIs, we also want to recognize that these communities still face many barriers to health and health care, including HIV/AIDS. To recognize these challenges, May 19thhas been designated as the National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The theme for this year’s observance is: “Saving face can’t make you safe. Talk about HIV—for me, for you, for everyone.”

    According to the Banyan Tree Project which founded the observance:

    “Saving face” is a common cultural concept in A&PI communities, where individuals seek to protect the family from perceived public shame or disgrace. In practice, “saving face” contributes to silence about sex, HIV, and safe sex practices. Saving face and stigma also lead to higher rates of HIV infection and a lack of knowledge about one’s HIV status.

    In addition to cultural challenges, many AAPIs in the United States experience economic and language barriers that contribute to discrimination and make HIV prevention, care, and treatment efforts even more challenging.

    We are working to address some of the factors that contribute to a culture of silence and to health disparities in AAPI communities. And we are using new tools and technologies to help reach those at greatest risk for, or living with, HIV/AIDS.

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services continues to look for ways to bridge the difficulties that some AAPI individuals and communities have in accessing medical care. To that end, we recently issued enhanced National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care (CLAS Standards), which guide health professionals and organizations in delivering culturally respectful and linguistically responsive care.