AIDS Issues Update Blog

Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS


Posted by Tim Murphy , November 12, 2013


Massachusetts: Health-care expansion and good coordination have led to dramatic drops in new HIV infections.

In recent weeks, we’ve been running a series on what it would take to end AIDS in New York State (a highly doable goal, by the way). This week, as we approach World AIDS Day on December 1, Christine Campbell, HW’s vice president in D.C. for national advocacy and organizing, weighs in on why, in 2014, we are more poised than ever to end the epidemic, not just in New York but nationwide:

Eight years ago, Housing Works and its activist partners nationwide launched the Campaign to End AIDS. We organized human caravans from all parts of the country and converged in D.C. this very month in 2005 for four days of actions and events to drive home one message: We now have all the scientific tools we need to end the AIDS epidemic. All we lack is the political will.

Eight years later, as we approach World AIDS Day on December 1, we have yet to end the AIDS epidemic. And yet our original assertion that we now have everything we need to do so except for the political will is more true than ever. Consider:

>In 2005, we didn’t know definitively, as we do now, that treated, undetectable HIV—in other words, viral suppression—means virtually untransmissable HIV, reducing infection risk up to 96 percent. This means that if we could only coordinate health coverage, funding and programming to get everyone in the U.S. with HIV on HIV meds and to undetectable virus levels as soon as possible after infection, we could essentially stop further transmission.

>In 2005, we didn’t know definitively, as we do now, that when folks at high risk for HIV—such as men who have sex with men, transgender women, or IV drug users—take a daily dose of the HIV med Truvada, they reduce their risk of getting HIV up to 96-99 percent. That provides an added level of protection against further transmission for folks in high-risk groups who choose to go on preventive Truvada, or “PrEP,” as it is called.

>In 2005, we did not have the expanded healthcare coverage in many states, including Medicaid expansion, that we now newly have under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA gives many states the opportunity to take their cue from Massachusetts and San Francisco, localities that have been able to dramatically reduce HIV infections by creating nearly universal medical coverage for HIV-positive individuals as well as wraparound services that ensure the best setting to keep such individuals in care and on treatment, which leads to viral suppression.

>n 2005 we did not have the significant body of research we now have showing that safe, affordable decent housing for people with HIV/AIDS plays a huge role in helping them stay in medical care and on their HIV meds, which helps them keep their viral load undetectable, stay healthy and remain dramatically less likely to transmit HIV to others.

As we approach World AIDS Day, Housing Works and its partners in activism are once again deeply invested in the goal of ending AIDS in the U.S. Tune in here in the days leading up to December 1 for more posts on the various factors we must demand that our political leaders put in place to stop AIDS. Now, even more than in 2005, we have all the scientific data and tools we need to terminate the spread of HIV. But we still need a carefully coordinated campaign to educate and pressure our leaders into funding and programming these tools around a coherent plan to halt this epidemic once and for all.

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