Obama unveils new strategy to tackle HIV

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Barack Obama has unveiled an update to the HIV prevention and treatment strategy in the United States.

The President first announced a 10-year strategy to tackle the issue in 2010, announcing a raft of measures to cut both transmission of HIV, and tackle undiagnosed cases.

White House officials rolled out an update to plans this week, at an event in the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.

Obama says in a recorded speech: “Our work is far from finished. 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.

“That’s why this is the first administration to release a comprehensive strategy on HIV/AIDS, and that’s why we are updating it for the rest of this decade.

“It seizes on the rapid shifts in science and policy as we’ve learned more about this disease.”

The director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, Douglas M Brooks, will warn that “the risk to gay men remains severe” despite being “stable overall”.

Citing the 1.2 million who are living with HIV, Brooks warns that HIV “remains a major health crisis for the United States”.

David Stacy of the Human Rights Campaign added: “The revisions to this critical national strategy come at a crucial time in the fight to end the HIV and AIDS epidemic.

“While HIV affects Americans from all walks of life, gay and bisexual men, transgender women, youth, and communities of colour are disproportionately affected, particularly in the South.

“Achieving an AIDS-free generation is within our grasp, and Congress must ensure the Obama Administration has the vital resources it needs to meet the strategy’s achievable goals.

The top priorities through 2020 include:
– Widespread HIV testing and linkage to care, enabling people living with HIV to access treatment early.
– Broad support for people living with HIV to remain engaged in comprehensive care, including support for treatment adherence.
– Universal viral suppression among people living with HIV, since it benefits their health and reduces transmission of the virus to others.
– Full access to comprehensive pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) services for those whom it is appropriate and desired, with support for medication adherence for those using PrEP. As one of the tools in the HIV-prevention toolkit, PrEP is a way for people who don’t have HIV to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day.