December 1st is World AIDS Day, a time to remember those we've lost to HIV and AIDS, celebrate our successes in saving and improving the lives of people living with HIV, and renew our commitment to ending the HIV epidemic in the United States and around the world. This year’s World AIDS Day theme is, Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Community by Community, reflecting on the lessons learned about the importance of strong partnerships with communities and of delivering person-centered, stigma-free HIV prevention, treatment, and care services that meet the needs of each individual.[i]
We Will Never Forget the 32 million who have died and the 75 million infected with HIV and AIDS. Contrary to popular opinion, HIV and AIDS are still a death sentence. In 2018, 770,000 people worldwide died from AIDS-related illnesses. About 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV today and about 15% of them (1 in 7) do not know they are infected. While the annual number of new diagnoses have decreased by 9% since 2010, 37,832 people received an HIV diagnosis in the United States in 2018.
The Most Impacted Community continues to be men who have sex with men (MSM), accounting for two-thirds of all HIV diagnoses and 80% of diagnoses among males in 2017. Black/African-American MSMs accounted for the largest number of HIV diagnoses (9,807), followed by Hispanics/Latinos (7,436) and then whites (6,982). From 2012 to 2016, HIV diagnoses among all MSMs remained stable, but trends varied by race/ethnicity:
- Whites: Decreased 14%.
- African Americans: Remained stable.
- Hispanics/Latinos: Increased 12%.
Treatment is Prevention! In 2019, NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collins declared that "Treatment is Prevention," or in other words "U=U," this is undetectable equals untransmittable. What this means is people who take antiretroviral therapy (ART) daily as prescribed, and who achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load (the amount of HIV in the blood), cannot sexually transmit the virus to others.
May We Renew Our Commitment to ending the HIV epidemic by striving for continued advances, including better access to testing, improving adherence to ARTs, and increasing the access to and use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), our goal to greatly reduce the number of new HIV/AIDS infections will be accomplished.
Amen, Ashe, May It Be So!