Breakthrough Patient Recruitment

: Working Toward an AIDS-Free Generation

Working Toward an AIDS-Free Generation

Account Manager

It was incredibly exciting to participate in the 2012 International AIDS Conference at the end of July and to think about its theme of "Turning the Tide Together." This global gathering included health workers, researchers, and policy makers from around the world-all trying to change the course of HIV and AIDS.


Through our work with the PACT program, we have seen firsthand that the course of AIDS is changing, particularly as the face of AIDS changes and as the populations normally considered at-risk continue to evolve. Fifteen years ago, our focus was on providing access to treatment and prevention. Now, other voices have joined in, and the focus is now on universal treatment, treatment as prevention, youth, orphans, stigma and discrimination, hate crimes, homophobia, and transgender issues.


On the one hand, the conference highlighted the need to bring topics related to HIV and youth to the forefront. We observed a significant presence of youth organizations and youth participants during the conference; there was a Youth Pavilion in the Global Village with ongoing sessions, a Youth Lounge for meetings and networking, and a session on "Young People Leading the Fight Against HIV."  


At the other end of the spectrum, understanding aging and HIV has become an increasingly high priority. By 2020, more than half of all people living with HIV will be older than 50. The risks for an aging HIV population include acquiring non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. These, in turn, bring additional challenges for treating people with HIV over their lifespan.


During the conference, we were thrilled to hear from internationally-respected leaders, such as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who spoke about the role of women in the fight against HIV/AIDS and the generation of AIDS orphans who need our attention. We also enjoyed learning from PACT community partners, such as Unity Health Care, who discussed the results of adding routine HIV testing in the primary care setting at clinics in the Washington, D.C. area. During 2010-2011, Unity offered routine HIV testing as part of vital sign intake during a regular primary care visit. This simple and feasible test helped diagnose 177 HIV-positive patients, including 36 with T-cell counts below 200 (a sign of transition from HIV to AIDS).


The message at the closing session was that we can achieve an AIDS-free generation. However, as The New York Times has noted, defining "AIDS-free" will represent a significant challenge in achieving this goal. There is a moral obligation to fund AIDS prevention and research and to continue to fight the discrimination and stigma associated with the disease.


As we listened, observed, and participated throughout the week-long conference, we realized that even with all the technological breakthroughs in fighting the disease, the role of advocacy and activism hasn't changed. Community outreach, collaboration, and engagement are as important as ever, and optimism is essential among advocates, patients, and providers alike.


If we want to turn the tide of HIV/AIDS, we really do have to do it together.

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