August 16, 2013
The Black AIDS Institute (BAI) and pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck have partnered to create the Washington, D.C. Black Treatment Advocates Network (BTAN), which will address the distinct needs of HIV-infected African Americans in the nation's capital. Using the educational initiatives of the Community Education Group (CEG), BTAN planned to train advocates to share information about health resources for HIV-infected African Americans in the nation's capital. Training for advocates was underway, and advocates would begin work in their communities by the end of the year. Thirteen other high-incidence cities already have HIV services networks.
According to Phill Wilson, BAI president and chief executive officer, HIV-infected African Americans were not using fully the treatment services available under the Affordable Care Act. Equating HIV treatment with prevention, Wilson stated that fewer than 25 percent of HIV-infected African Americans had "appropriate HIV care with viral suppression," which was the key to preventing 96 percent of new HIV cases.
In May 2012, the D.C. Department of Health reported that 4.3 percent of Washington's African-American population had HIV. Although African Americans comprised only 46 percent of D.C.'s population, they accounted for approximately 75 percent of the city's HIV cases.
Chirfi Guindo, Merck's vice president and general manager, described Merck programs that helped offset antiretroviral medication costs. Merck's initiative provided free HIV medications to approximately 1,000 patients, but many other HIV-infected people lacked information about available HIV facilities and treatment resources.
HIV advocate Alvin Jeffrey Hall, who has been HIV positive since the 1980s, reported that many HIV-infected African Americans in Washington, D.C. did not take advantage of HIV services because of fear and lack of knowledge about treatment resources. Now office manager for Metro TeenAIDS, Hall emphasized that education and regular treatment were of prime importance.