President Obama Takes A Step Forward In The Fight Against HIV

(Credit: Shutterstock)

President Obama announced Monday a series of executive actions aimed at ramping up his administration’s fight against HIV.

The announcement marks an attempt to increase federal involvement in curbing HIV. It supplements the 2010 National AIDS/HIV Strategy with “additional scientific discoveries (which) have greatly enhanced our understanding of how to prevent and treat HIV.”

The order authorizes the creation of the HIV Care Continuum Initiative, which will coordinate federal efforts surrounding recent developments in HIV treatment and prevention. These developments include new testing programs in low-income areas and the creation of numerous drugs to reduce new infections. The order also calls for the creation of an interdepartmental working group to support the initiative.

“A breakthrough research trial supported by the National Institutes of Health showed that initiating HIV treatment when the immune system was relatively healthy reduced HIV transmission by 96 percent,” the order notes. “In addition, evidence suggests that early treatment may reduce HIV-related complications. These findings highlight the importance of prompt HIV diagnosis, and because of recent advances in HIV testing technology, HIV can be detected sooner and more rapidly than ever before.”

This principle squares with the recommendation of the World Health Organization, which recently updated its guidelines to push for earlier treatment of HIV. That revised policy came on the heels of scientific advances earlier this year indicating that earlier treatment may be the path to a “functional cure” of the disease.

While data from the Centers for Disease Control suggests that incidence rates of HIV are stabilizing or falling among much of the population, the rates are still increasing among men who have sex with men and transgender women. Collecting more health data specifically within the LGBT community is necessary to improve HIV treatment and prevention strategies among the highest-risk groups.

Joseph Diebold is an intern with ThinkProgress.