Montgomery, AL (STL.News) – HIV transmission bears a substantial rural burden in Alabama with a relatively high rate of new HIV infections in residents of rural areas. An ambitious U.S. government initiative has a goal of reducing new HIV infections by 75 percent in five years and by at least 90 percent in 10 years. Because of its high rate of new infections, Alabama has been selected as one of seven states to receive additional expertise, resources and technology needed to end the HIV epidemic.
Dr. Robert Redfield, 18th director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, visited Montgomery June 14 to meet with government officials, public health leaders, medical providers and others. They discussed the challenges that Alabama faces in providing health care for its citizens.
Recent data show U.S. progress in reducing the number of new HIV infections has plateaued, and there are new threats to the progress that has been made, the most significant being the opioid crisis: 1 in 10 new HIV infections occur among people who inject drugs. This initiative aims to avert more than 250,000 HIV infections within a decade.
Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America was announced by President Donald Trump in his State of the Union address February 5. This approach is the result of decades of work, and focuses on four key strategies that, together, can end the HIV epidemic in the U.S. Requested funding is based on careful consideration by top scientists and public health officials. The plan targets four areas of action, which are as follows:
- Diagnose all individuals with HIV as early as possible after infection.
- Treat the infection rapidly and effectively after diagnosis, achieving sustained viral suppression.
- Protect individuals at risk for HIV using proven prevention approaches.
- Respond rapidly to detect and respond to growing HIV clusters and prevent new HIV infections.
The initiative also relies on an HIV workforce of culturally competent and committed public health professionals that will carry out HIV elimination efforts in areas of need, such as Alabama, with the goal of ending the HIV epidemic for the next generation.
Dr. Redfield has been a public health leader actively engaged in clinical research and clinical care of chronic human viral infections and infectious diseases, especially HIV, for more than 30 years.