The Obama administration revealed an update to the nation’s 10-year National HIV/AIDS strategy at an event in Atlanta this Thursday that aims to decrease new HIV diagnoses by at least 25 percent. The president is expected to formally sign the executive order this week to bring the updated strategy into effect.
According to a White House press release, the expanded program is designed to work toward a vision in which “the United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare, and when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination.”
The new policy builds off the broad ideas expressed in the current National HIV/AIDS strategy that was put in place between 2010 and 2015. The first five-year plan was intended to increase access to health services for people living with HIV and focus on a more coordinated national response to the HIV epidemic.
The new strategy piece, which will bring the plan into 2020, expands the original plan to more directly address concerns with preventative and diagnosed care. It will focus on increasing access to early testing for at-risk groups, expanding treatment to the disproportionately affected southern U.S. and major metropolitan areas, promoting full access to pre-exposure prophylaxis services — which allow at-risk parties who have not contracted HIV to take a pill every day to avoid future infection — and providing universal viral suppression for people already living with HIV.
“One in eight people with HIV still go undiagnosed. Only three in 10 people with HIV have suppressed the virus in their system, lowering it to an undetectable level. And this disease still affects different ages, races, sexual orientations, and even different regions of the country in disproportionate ways,” said President Obama is a video address in which he recognized that the country still has a “long way to go” toward combating HIV.
The 2020 update builds on the previous five-year strategy’s goal to push towards more comprehensive treatment, particularly with respect to existing services offered through the Affordable Care Act, but plans to do so with a greater focus on groups at greatest risk for contracting HIV — including all races of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, black and Latino men and women, people who inject drugs, people between the ages of 13 and 24, and people who live in the southern United States. The 2020 update also recognizes the “high burden of HIV among Black gay and bisexual men,” as well as black transgender women.
The Obama administration hopes the new plan will better integrate existing legislation, including an interagency working group on the intersection of HIV/AIDS, gender-related health disparities, and violence against women and girls born out of a 2012 memorandum, and the HIV Care Continuum created in 2013.
According to the most current data available through the Center for Disease Control, rates of diagnosis have remained relatively stable between 2009 and 2013, with an estimated 1.2 million people currently living with HIV in the United States. Of these people, one in eight do not know they are living with the infection. The 2020 update will work toward increasing the number of individuals aware of their infection to at least 90 percent.
Katelyn Harrop is an intern with ThinkProgress.