FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 27, 2014
Contact: Meico Whitlock, 202-434-8094, www.NASTAD.org
Health Departments Accelerate Improvements in HIV Prevention and Care in the U.S.
Health Departments Innovate in the Face of Changing HIV Landscape
Washington, DC – To enhance the ability of health departments to reach the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS), today the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) released Raising the Bars: Accelerating HIV Prevention and Care in the United States and accompanying Raising the Bars: Policy Recommendations to Enhance Health Departments’ Efforts to End the HIV Epidemic.
Raising the Bars illustrates how health departments are leading the domestic HIV epidemic to its end within a rapidly changing system of HIV prevention and care services by maximizing outcomes along the HIV care continuum. These documents also provide concrete examples of how health department leaders have already revised their approaches to delivering HIV prevention and care programs, while recommitting to core principles: sound public health policy, fiscal efficiency, partnership and collaboration, and meaningful consumer involvement and engagement with communities impacted by HIV infection. NASTAD urges all health departments to use this call to action to further strengthen their programs’ ability to reach the NHAS goals. To maximize limited resources, NASTAD also encourages community partners to identify new ways to collaborate with health departments to end the epidemic.
Since the beginning of the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic, health departments have been at the forefront of our nation’s efforts to prevent new infections and create systems of care for people living with HIV. While our prevention efforts in the U.S. have had successes, approximately 50,000 new infections continue to occur annually. The overwhelming majority of all new infections occur among racial and ethnic minorities and gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) of all races and ethnicities, and this is unacceptable. The number of new HIV infections must decrease to address health threats and improve health outcomes, particularly among disproportionately impacted populations.
“The increase in HIV infections among gay men/MSM, particularly men of color, is heartbreaking and we must do more to address this crisis and show them that their lives do matter,” said Murray Penner, NASTAD Deputy Executive Director. “We remain committed to the health and wellness of gay men/MSM. This is an urgent concern requiring innovative responses and coordination beyond funding streams and across systems of prevention and health care access. Prevention resources for gay men/MSM should mirror the epidemic in each jurisdiction, and engagement between community stakeholders and health departments is paramount.”
“We are encountering a confluence of remarkable opportunities and unprecedented pressures—to advance prevention, care, and treatment approaches that can begin to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, in the context of the most far-reaching transformation in our nation’s health care system in the last 50 years, and during an uncertain funding environment,” said NASTAD Chair and Massachusetts AIDS Director H. Dawn Fukuda. “The time has come for state health department leaders to implement bold approaches–initiatives that integrate prevention and care, maximize access to HIV treatment, and explicitly confront health disparities in our jurisdictions—because our window for action is now.”
Raising the Bars describes elements of a responsive service system that incorporates available technologies to improve outcomes along the HIV care continuum. Demonstrated successes of these systems make the case for federal action and additional funding to scale-up health department efforts.
For perhaps the first time in history, the end of HIV is within in our reach and health departments – as the cornerstone implementers of public health policy – are leading the way,” noted Julie Scofield, NASTAD Executive Director. “The urgency of ramping up our efforts to get to zero new infections and the promise of realizing the vision of the NHAS – that the U.S. 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 – has never been greater.”
The National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), founded in 1992, is a nonprofit national association of state and territorial health department HIV/AIDS program directors who have programmatic responsibility for administering HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis and associated public health programs. NASTAD works to strengthen the role and promote the success of state and territorial public health programs in the U.S. and internationally. For more information, visit www.NASTAD.org.