Office of National AIDS Policy Blog

  • We Want to Hear from You

    As we commemorated World AIDS Day earlier this month, the importance of addressing the needs of women and girls as part of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy was clear. While we have made tremendous progress in learning how to prevent and treat HIV, including among women and girls, much work remains.  Of the approximately 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States, about 290,000 are women and women account for 23 percent of new HIV infections.  

    This Administration has made combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic a priority. For women, that includes addressing gender-based violence and gender related health disparities.  This violence can increase the risks women and girls face of acquiring HIV while decreasing their ability to seek prevention, treatment, and health services.

    As directed by the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, federal agencies are collaborating and coordinating in an unprecedented manner to decrease new HIV/AIDS infections, improve HIV-related outcomes, and reduce HIV-related disparities.  To continue this collaborative approach, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum in March 2012, establishing an interagency working group on the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women and girls, and gender-related health disparities. 

    The working group includes representatives from the Departments of Justice, Interior, Health and Human Services, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and the Office of Management and Budget. We are also tapping into the wealth of expertise and experience of members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS as well as our global Federal partners from the Department of State, the United States Agency for International Development, and the Gender Technical Working Group from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). 

  • Moving Towards an AIDS-free Generation

    World AIDS Day Ribbon at the White House

    A red ribbon is displayed on the North Portico of the White House, Nov. 30, 2010, in advance of World AIDS Day. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson) (Official White House Photo)

    What a year it has been!  One year ago on World AIDS Day, President Obama announced ambitious new targets in the global fight against HIV/AIDS, and on the domestic front focused investment to support the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy to fight the epidemic here at home. In the President’s speech that day he said: “we are going to win this fight. But the fight is not over…”  As we celebrate World AIDS Day 2012, it is worth taking a moment to look back at what’s been achieved and what remains to be done to meet the goal of an AIDS-free generation.

    We’re pleased to announce that the President’s commitments have translated into meaningful action over the last year and that we’re making measurable, real progress.  We’ll talk about that progress in detail this week, when the White House will host an event for World AIDS Day on November 29 from 1pm-3pm, which you can watch at www.whitehouse.gov/live. We’ll discuss the results we have achieved over the last year – including towards meeting the targets set by the President one year ago, and the next steps we will be taking to turn the tide on this epidemic. Please join us!

    This summer, we were reminded that HIV impacts all of us, no matter who we are or where we live. The International AIDS Conference returned to the United States for the first time in 22 years, thanks to President Obama concluding a successful bipartisan effort to end the entry ban on persons living with HIV. The Conference was an unqualified success, with new and exciting treatment and prevention research announced and representation of persons living with HIV from all regions of the world. President Obama welcomed delegates to the conference and hosted HIV-positive conference delegates and others for a White House reception. Six senior White House staff recorded powerful and personal videos on how the HIV/AIDS epidemic has impacted their lives. 

  • Observing National Latino HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

    Today, we observe the 10th anniversary of National Latino AIDS Awareness Day.  It is a day where we recognize how far we’ve come, but also how much more work there is to do fighting HIV/AIDS in the Latino community. In commemoration of today, Mayra Alvarez, Director of Public Health Policy in the Office of Health Reform at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, posted a blog discussing the sobering HIV/AIDS statistics and this Administration’s commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS in the Latino community.

    To read Mayra’s post, please visit aids.gov.

  • Helping Understand and Treat HIV Through Community-Based Leadership

    The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community have helped bring about much of the tremendous progress in understanding and treating HIV, ranging from increasing HIV awareness, to fighting HIV-related discrimination, to volunteering for cutting-edge research. This legacy of community-based leadership is one to note on this 5th Annual National Gay Men’s HIV/Awareness Day.

    In 2010, President Obama released the nation’s first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which called for aligning resources where HIV is most concentrated, and implementing evidence-based, high-impact interventions to reduce new HIV infections, improving HIV-related health outcomes, and reducing HIV-related disparities. The Strategy has focused Federal, State, and local efforts on a combination prevention approach for gay men and other populations at high risk, including increasing HIV testing and HIV treatment, because studies demonstrate that increasing diagnosis rates and reducing viral loads will significantly reduce new HIV infections in disproportionately affected communities.

    The National HIV/AIDS Strategy also calls for addressing stigma and discrimination as part of a comprehensive response to the HIV epidemic. In keeping with the goals of the Strategy, the Department of Justice has taken steps to enforce civil rights laws that protect the rights of persons living with HIV/AIDS, and has launched a website dedicated to fighting discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS. 

  • National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day: Recognizing the Challenges of Growing Older with HIV/AIDS

    Today marks the fifth observance of National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day.  It is a day where we recognize that while the progress made in reducing HIV mortality and morbidity is remarkable, people aging with HIV face multiple, unique challenges. By 2015 over half of all people living with HIV in the US will be over age 50. A major reason for the ‘greying’ of HIV in the US is due to the tremendous success of medications that have dramatically increased the lifespans of people living with HIV.

    About 10% of new HIV infections in the United States occur among persons over 50. HIV prevention among older adults is complicated because clinicians are less likely to consider the possibility of HIV infection in this population. Part of the reason for this is that the overwhelming majority of new HIV infections in the US occur among younger populations. However, decreased testing rates mean that older adults are more likely than younger adults to be diagnosed later in their disease progression (i.e. more likely to be diagnosed with AIDS less than a year after diagnosis).

    Racial and ethnic disparities observed in the US HIV epidemic overall are reflected among older persons living with HIV. The rates of HIV/AIDS among people over 50 are 12 times higher for African-Americans and 5 times higher for Latinos compared with whites, which has implications for life expectancy as well as HIV transmission because black and Latino populations generally are less likely to have access to clinical care. 

    While more people aging with HIV are living healthier, more productive lives than ever before, growing older with HIV may present multiple medical challenges. Because the immune systems of people living with HIV are constantly fighting infection, they are more prone to ongoing inflammation which is associated with co-morbid conditions associated with aging such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and cancer. Liver disease, often the result of co-infection with hepatitis C, is prevalent. Decreased bone density is also common, potential due to combination of the normal aging process, medication side effects, and the direct effects of the virus itself

  • Implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Grand Rounds at the CDC

    This week, I traveled to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta to present at CDC’s Public Health Grand Rounds, an ongoing series of monthly presentations on health-related topics pertinent to the health of Americans.

    This session consisted of four presentations directly relevant to the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS). After introductory remarks by CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden, Dr. Jonathan Mermin presented “The Science of Optimizing HIV Prevention,” describing strategies to maximize the effectiveness of HIV prevention strategies, including integration of prevention and clinical care at the local level. Dr. Irene Hall presented “HIV Surveillance in Action,” reviewing advances in HIV surveillance that enable CDC data to be used for public health action at the provider and individual level. Dr. Stephanie Sansom followed with “Modeling to Identify Optimal Allocation of HIV Prevention Resources in a City Health Department,” focusing on how Philadelphia has used evidence-based modeling to set resource allocation priorities.

    I closed the session by providing an overview of NHAS implementation, emphasizing the importance of the Affordable Care Act in helping to meet NHAS goals and improving the health and wellness of people living with HIV. These presentations are an excellent reminder of the critical ongoing role that NHAS plays in fighting domestic epidemic. To watch this month’s Public Health Grand Rounds, please visit the CDC website.  

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