Moving Forward

The CDC claims that the rate of new infections has stabilized at roughly 50,000 per year. There were 34 million HIV-positive patients of record in 2011, but global AIDS-related deaths are falling. In 2011, AIDS claimed 1.7 million lives, down from the mortality peak of 2.3 million in 2005 and from the 1.8 million deaths recorded in 2010. Since most of the global HIV/AIDS population does not have access to antiretroviral treatments, the decline in mortality rate is due largely to ongoing public awareness campaigns about safe sex and safer drug use.

Scientists are now focusing on certain sub-populations that are at the greatest risk of new infection; in the U.S., young blacks make up only 12% of the population, yet account for 44% of new infections. Globally, some parts of the world are still dealing with accelerated rates of new infection, such as in sub-Saharan Africa.

U.S. HIV/AIDS Strategies

Under President Obama’s administration in 2010, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) was launched. Representing the U.S.’s first comprehensive roadmap to address the AIDS crisis, this program established clear goals that were to be reached by 2015. Among them are the prevention of new HIV infections, an increase in patient access to care, and the reduction of the number of co-infections associated with HIV (like tuberculosis and hepatitis).

Each goal has a clear implementation plan in place. The White House is not the only stakeholder in NHAS’s success; federal agencies, state and local governments, and entities from the business, education, media, and religious sectors all contribute. Currently the NHAS is succeeding at all three targets, but as always is in need of more funds and more participation.

Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid eligibility was expanded in participating states. The expansion means that an additional 60% of HIV-positive patients are now eligible for Medicaid. These patients, who formerly were restricted to whatever treatment was made available by their local government, are now able to navigate a much larger healthcare system at low or no cost. The provision that outlawed insurance companies’ right to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions also allowed this segment of the population to qualify for insurance plans that would previously have been out of reach.

The Outlook for Global AIDS Patients

Removing the social stigma attached to AIDS is the first step towards an open dialogue, which is ideally followed by an influx of treatment options for marginalized peoples. Thirty years of misinformation about AIDS must be corrected by these governments. Lack of education and poverty are root causes of AIDS’ explosive growth in Africa, and the obstacles to overcome in order to end the crisis.

Global health ministers agree that South Africa’s compliance with UNAIDS initiatives is critical in humanity’s battle against HIV. The initiatives deliver care to the Sub-Saharan population that now makes up nearly 70% of HIV-positive patients in the world. While slow to catch up with the global push to end AIDS, leaders in this part of the world are finally making HIV awareness campaigns and access to treatment national priorities.