Most HIV-Positive Americans Lack Regular Medical Care

English: Enterprise Performance Life Cycle

English: Enterprise Performance Life Cycle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From Betsy McKay of the Wall Street Journal comes this from the recently concluded International AIDS  Conference in Washington DC:

HIV Data (1990, 2000, 2010)

HIV Data (1990, 2000, 2010) (Photo credit: cmdelaserna)

More than half of the people diagnosed with the HIV virus in the U.S. aren’t getting treatment for their infection, the U.S government said (Friday).

African-Americans and younger people are least likely to be receiving regular treatment, meaning that programs to keep them under a doctor’s care aren’t working or aren’t plentiful enough, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While 81% of those African Americans estimated to be infected are diagnosed, only 29% get ongoing care, and just 21% are “virally suppressed,” or have their virus controlled by a regular regimen of antiretroviral, or ARV, drugs. Among Americans ages 25 to 34, 72% of those infected are diagnosed, but 28% get care and a mere 15% are virally suppressed.

Overall, an estimated 1.1 million Americans are infected with HIV. Only 46% of those who are diagnosed with HIV get regular treatment, while a quarter of all those estimated to be infected are virally suppressed.

“We’ve got to do better,” says Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s division of HIV/AIDS Prevention.

The data were released at the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C.

The challenge is to find ways to make HIV testing more widespread, and then make it easier to link those who are diagnosed directly into care — and to make sure they stay there, says Mermin.  “I want to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” he says.

And therein lies the challenge. The easy choice is sometimes pretending the choices don’t even exist….

Read the rest here. 

English: IPSF HIV/AIDS Campaign Logo

English: IPSF HIV/AIDS Campaign Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Clergy Can Fight HIV On Faith-friendly Terms

An excellent article from Science Daily:

In the United States, where blacks bear a disproportionate burden of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, black religious institutions could help turn the tide. In a new study in PLoS ONE based on dozens of interviews and focus groups with 38 of Philadelphia’s most influential black clergy, physicians and public health researchers find that traditional barriers to preaching about HIV prevention could give way to faith-friendly messages about getting tested and staying on treatment.

The public health community has long struggled with how best to reduce HIV infection rates among black Americans, which is seven times that of whites. In a new paper in the journal PLoS ONE, a team of physicians and public health researchers report that African-American clergy say they are ready to join the fight against the disease by focusing on HIV testing, treatment, and social justice, a strategy that is compatible with religious teaching.

“We in public health have done a poor job of engaging African-American community leaders and particularly black clergy members in HIV prevention,” said Amy Nunn, lead author of the study and assistant professor of medicine in the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. “There is a common misperception that African American churches are unwilling to address the AIDS epidemic. This paper highlights some of the historical barriers to effectively engaging African American clergy in HIV prevention and provides recommendations from clergy for how to move forward.”

The paper analyzes and distills dozens of interviews and focus group data among 38 African-Amereican pastors and imams in Philadelphia, where racial disparities in HIV infection are especially stark. Seven in 10 new infections in the city are among black residents. With uniquely deep influence in their communities, nearly all of the 27 male and 11 female clergy said they could and would preach and promote HIV testing and treatment.

That message, delivered by clergy or other influential figures, would provide a needed complement to decades of public health efforts that have emphasized risk behaviors, Nunn said. Research published and widely reported last year, for example, suggests that testing and then maintaining people on treatment could dramatically reduce new infections because treatment can give people a 96-percent lower chance of transmitting HIV.

“For decades, we’ve focused many HIV prevention efforts on reducing risky behavior,” said Nunn, who is also based at The Miriam Hospital. “Focusing on HIV testing and treatment should be the backbone of HIV prevention strategies and efforts to reduce racial disparities in HIV infection. Making HIV testing routine is the gateway to getting more individuals on treatment. African American clergy have an important role to play in routinizing HIV testing.”

The barriers clergy members face

Many religious leaders acknowledged that they’ve struggled with how best to combat the epidemic, particularly with challenges related to discussing human sexuality in church or mosque, according to the analysis in the paper.

“One time my pastor spoke to young people about sex, mentioning using protection,” the paper quotes a clergy member as saying in one example. “I was sitting in the clergy row; you could feel the heat! I was surprised he said that. Comments from the clergy highlighted they were opposed to that. It’s a tightrope walk.”

Many clergy members also said they face significant barriers to preaching about risk behaviors without still emphasizing abstinence.

“It’s my duty as a preacher to tell people to abstain,” one pastor told the research team, “but if they’re still having sex and they’re getting HIV, there has to be another way to handle this.”

What clergy can do

Many clergy members suggested couching the HIV/AIDS epidemic in social justice rather than behavioral terms, Nunn said. They also recommended focusing on HIV testing as an important means to help stem the spread of the disease and reduce the stigma.

“We need to standardize testing,” one pastor told the researchers. “One thing that we could do immediately is to encourage our congregations — everybody — to get tested. … We’re not dealing with risk factors. And we’re all going to get tested once a year. That’s the one thing that we could do that doesn’t get into our doctrine about sexuality.”

In general, many of the religious leaders said they could encourage discussion of HIV not only in main worship services, but also in ministries and community outreach activities.

FULL ARTICLE HERE