February 8, 2012
Los Angeles, Calif. -- The Black AIDS Institute, the only national HIV/AIDS think tank focused exclusively on Black people, today issued "Exit Strategy: Ending the AIDS Epidemic in Black America." Citing recent research breakthroughs and the conclusions of leading AIDS experts, the report says that the tools now exist to end the AIDS epidemic. The report outlines a roadmap to achieve this ambitious goal, including the call for a massive investment in science and treatment education capacity-building in Black communities.
The eighth annual report on the State of AIDS in Black America, the latest report cites modeling data indicating that existing HIV prevention tools have the capacity to break the epidemic's back over the next two decades. Especially promising are clinical trial results from 2011, which found that antiretroviral treatment reduced the odds of HIV transmission by 96%. Multiple studies have also found that antiretroviral drugs are useful for HIV-negative individuals as well, with sharp reductions in HIV acquisition reported for uninfected individuals who took daily doses of the medicines.
"Today we have the means to end the AIDS epidemic," said Phill Wilson, president and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute. "We can finally begin working toward an end game' for the epidemic."
The report emphasizes, however, that considerably stronger efforts will be required, as well as new ways of doing business, if the promise of existing tools is to be realized. And in Black America, which accounts for less than 14% of the U.S. population but for 44% of all new HIV infections, an even higher standard of success will be needed.
To bring AIDS to an end, the Institute proposes a four-part plan. First, every Black American needs to know his or her HIV status. Second, every person who tests HIV-positive must be immediately linked to high-quality, ongoing HIV treatment, as well as tailored support for treatment adherence. Third, the historic approach to HIV prevention -- which has focused on avoiding HIV exposure -- must be complemented by the scaling up of biomedical tools that reduce the odds of HIV acquisition in the event of exposure. Fourth, continued support is needed for research to develop new prevention tools, including a preventive vaccine and rectal and vaginal microbicides.
The report urges the President and Congress to make the needed investments to end AIDS, noting that every prevented infection averts more than $600,000 in future medical costs and productivity losses several times greater. Black leaders from all walks of life need to embrace the quest to end AIDS as one of Black America's highest priorities. And Black organizations engaged in the response must learn new ways of operating, including developing close working partnerships with medical care providers and taking steps to dismantle the historic divide between HIV prevention and HIV treatment. To enable Black America to use the biomedical tools that can end AIDS, every community needs to have a robust and comprehensive understanding of HIV science and treatment.
"The challenge facing us is enormous," said Wilson. "But anyone who has lived through the darkest days of the epidemic and managed to reach this moment of extraordinary hope has to be inspired. We can do this."
To access the full report, please visit www.blackaids.org.