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National HIV/AIDS Strategy & Clinton AIDS Platform Updates: Looking Ahead

July 30, 2016

The White House’s Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) recently announced an update on the United States’ response to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic. The new Indicator Supplement demonstrates that significant progress has been made since the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) was released six years ago, but more work needs to be done to end HIV/AIDS as an epidemic in the U.S.

The Indicator Supplement shows that there has been a 30% reduction in AIDS deaths, a reduction in HIV diagnosis disparity among black cisgender women, and a steady improvement in HIV diagnosis, linkage to care, and viral suppression. However, there has been an increase in homelessness among people living with HIV (9% of those in medical care living with HIV are homeless), increases in HIV risk behavior, and diagnosis disparities among black men having sex with men (MSM). More outreach is needed to help those at risk of becoming infected, particularly young MSM of color and transgender women, learn about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which has been shown to be more than 90 percent effective in preventing HIV infection.

“We’ve come a long way, and we can end the AIDS epidemic; it is now within our reach. But it won’t happen unless we pay attention to people in communities at greater risk of infection,” said Stephane Howze Vice President and Ombudsperson of Amida Care. “For the NHAS to be successful, we must create pathways to equitable health care and life-saving treatment for the people who need it most, like many Amida Care members I work with every day, particularly those who are homeless, young MSM of color, and transgender women. This will create a healthier nation for all of us.”

The Democratic National Convention recently made history by featuring Atlanta-based activist Daniel Driffin, the first openly HIV-positive advocate to speak at the convention. Amida Care, along with fellow members of the National Coalition to End the AIDS Epidemic, applauds the Clinton campaign for announcing that Secretary Hillary Clinton is building upon her HIV/AIDS agenda, releasing a new commitment with specific steps she will take to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic nationally and globally. These steps include convening an “End the Epidemic” working group to fully implement and strengthen the NHAS and launching a campaign to end the stigma and discrimination around HIV/AIDS. Secretary Clinton’s existing HIV/AIDS platform includes expanding affordable care, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and removing disparities and barriers to accessing care.

As New York State’s largest Special Needs health Plan (SNP), Amida Care is proud that New York State is on track to End the AIDS Epidemic (EtE) and reduce the number of new HIV infections from 3,000 per year to fewer than 750 by the end of 2020, according to the latest data released by the New York State Department of Health.

“We need continued investment of resources to expand focused services that will help us cross the finish line to end AIDS as an epidemic in New York, which can serve as a model for the nation. Health care needs to be about more than visiting the doctor and taking pills. People living with HIV need access not only to clinicians and medications but to stable housing and employment that enables them to stay in care, become virally suppressed, and get about the business of living,” said Doug Wirth, President and CEO of Amida Care who served on the Governor Cuomo’s EtE Task Force. “It’s encouraging to know that our hard work and the advocacy advanced by Governor Cuomo to End the Epidemic in New York is getting results.” Amida Care has experienced impressive results firsthand—through our coordinated care model, we have achieved a 75% viral suppression rate among our HIV-positive members as well as over $88 million in in-patient cost savings to New York State.

Medicaid SNPs would be a great resource to support transgender individuals in living their authentic lives and remaining HIV negative. Amida Care’s SNP ensures that life-saving medical treatment and care is tailored to individual needs and connects members to housing, transportation, job training, and other supportive services.

“Antiretroviral therapy and treatment adherence give people living with HIV/AIDS the chance to become virally suppressed so that they live longer, healthier lives and significantly reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others,” said Dr. Jerome Ernst, Chief Medical Officer at Amida Care. “We know what it will take to end the AIDS epidemic in New York and as a nation: we have the know-how to bring more people living with HIV into care and help HIV negative people who are most at risk stay negative.”

Global funding of HIV/AIDS has dropped by over $1 billion, seriously threatening the possibility of ending AIDS globally by the year 2030. An increase in the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) by at least $2 billion per year by 2020 is needed now more than ever to fulfill the U.S.’s commitment to universal access to HIV treatment and care.