Monday, June 30, 2014

Here Is Where You Will Find HIV

Maps are the newest weapon for fighting the epidemic 


The AIDS epidemic came to the U.S. in the early 1980s. And for most of the decade that followed, ignorance, fear, and stigma abetted its spread. First, people didn’t even know about the disease. Once they did, they singled out and ostracized the groups that were most obviously affectedgay and bisexual men, intravenous drug users, and members of some immigrant groups. In that environment, it was difficult to get the White House to even talk about the epidemic, let alone secure the resources necessary for research and outreach efforts.

As Michael Hobbes documented in these pages earlier this year, the slow response to the disease was one reason the mortality rate in the U.S. was so much higher than in other countries. But once science found a way to treat the disease, the mortality rate fell. The number of people living with HIV as a chronic condition rose, while the rate of new infections stabilized. Today, the public has a much better grasp of the diseasewhat it does, how it’s transmitted, what can be done to prevent it. Three consecutive administrations, one of them Republican, have made fighting HIV here and abroad a priority. 

But the disease is still around, and it is spreading. About 50,000 people a year get it. And not all of them have easy access to life-sustaining drugs. Officials have proven strategies for slowing the epidemic’s spread and treating those who have iteverything from more widespread testing to establishing a well-structured “care continuum” of drugs and therapy. But for the strategies to work, public health workers must know where to deploy them. That’s why, in 2010, the Obama Administration embraced a new National HIV Strategy. Under this plan, public health officials are supposed to move away from broad, national prevention and treatment effortsand focus instead on targeting efforts to the communities and people who most need it.

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