Many advancements have been seen in the fight against HIV in the past 35 years. Recently released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shown that the work that the healthcare community has been doing has paid off, resulting in a 10% decrease in the number of new infections
between 2010 and 2014. This might lead some to believe that the community should continue with the status quo in action, citing the adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, with a new political climate and much work that still needs to be done in the field, one pharmaceutical company, Gilead, is calling for an overall rethink of how the healthcare community is currently responding to the HIV epidemic.
Entitled, “REIMAGINE: Reset. Refuel. Retool,” the Gilead-sponsored Plenary Luncheon at the 21st Annual United States Conference on AIDS (USCA) in Washington, DC, on Friday, September 8, 2017 featured a myriad of speakers presenting their thoughts on how the community can reimagine its response.
One such speaker, Derrick Butler, MD, MPH, Associate Medical Director, from the T.H.E. Health and Wellness Centers who practices in South Central Los Angeles, California, focused his presentation on the individuals of color who are at highest risk of acquiring HIV. Highlighting the successes of Seattle, Washington and San Francisco, California, which reduced its rate of new infections down to 15.4 / 100,000 persons, Dr. Butler also called attention to the struggles of Jackson, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana, which are struggling with increasing transmission rates.
Indeed, an almost ironic switch has occurred in the world as of late in that for so long, the United States has “pitied”—Dr. Butler’s words--African nations for their high rates of HIV infections and AIDS, but now, in 2017, some of these low-income countries, such as Swaziland
, have been able to reach the 90-90-90 targets ahead of the United States. This fact prompted Dr. Butler to ask the audience, “Will [these countries] start to pity us? Maybe we have something to learn from them.” And, perhaps we do. Swaziland has been able to boast its low numbers, despite the fact that men who have sex with men (the population at highest risk), are stigmatized and shunned, not only in Africa, but also in the United States.