December 1, 2011
AIDS is a declining concern among Americans, and that complacency is a key reason the disease continues to spread, top US health officials say.
"We are no longer in crisis mode after 30 years of HIV. Certainly in the United States, the sense of crisis has waned," said Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention. "But the reality is that people are still becoming infected and people are still dying of this disease."
Recent research conducted by the National Institutes of Health found the combination of antiretroviral treatment and using safer behaviors makes people with HIV far less likely to transmit the virus to others. It shows "treating people with HIV [is] 96 percent effective in reducing transmission," said Joel Gallant of Johns Hopkins University, vice chair of the HIV Medicine Association (HMA). "Nothing has been that effective, not condoms, not abstinence. That should be a call to action."
The research "brings home that treatment is prevention," said CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden. "We have the tools to stop HIV's spread in individual patients and the tools to greatly reduce its spread in communities."
CDC on Tuesday announced new funding for state and local health departments to enhance HIV testing and treatment services.
Funding these services must be a priority, said Gallant, even given the current climate of cash-strapped state budgets and HIV patients on waiting lists to access medicines. "People are getting on treatment much later, and during that time, are potentially creating more HIV cases," he said. "It's not a moral way to go."
HMA is concerned health care reform could make matters worse by restructuring federal funding mechanisms, Gallant added. The infrastructure that has been built around serving HIV/AIDS patients could disappear, potentially creating critical gaps, he said.