01 Dec American Academy of HIV Medicine Praises New National HIV/AIDS Strategy for Addressing Systemic Barriers to Ending the Epidemic
Washington, DC: The American Academy of HIV Medicine, the nation’s largest independent HIV care provider organization, today commended the Biden Administration for releasing an updated National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS), which renews the goal of ending the epidemic by 2030. President Biden unveiled the new plan on World AIDS Day, which offered the opportunity to commemorate those we have lost to HIV/AIDS, recognize the extraordinary clinical advances that have been made and thereby celebrate those with HIV who are living long, healthy lives.
The 2021 NHAS was released by the White House’s Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP), which was recently reopened after being closed by the previous administration and builds upon 2010 and 2015 plans. According to a statement provided by the Biden Administration, the 2021 NHAS has been updated to:
- Incorporate the latest data on HIV incidence, prevalence and trends;
- Expand the focus on addressing the social determinants of health that influence an individual’s HIV risk or outcomes;
- Encourage reform of state HIV criminalization laws;
- Add a new focus on opportunities to engage the private sector in novel and important ways in the nation’s work to end the epidemic.
According to the Academy, these are welcomed additions. Despite making tremendous progress over the past 40 years thanks to aggressive government initiatives and unprecedented scientific advances in HIV treatment and prevention, 34,800 new HIV infections occurred in the U.S. in 2019.
“Science can only take us so far,” stated Academy Executive Director, Bruce J. Packett. “We have the clinical tools in our arsenal for HIV treatment and prevention. This new plan finally begins to put a greater emphasis on the societal barriers that are perpetuating health disparities in our country. We will never be able to truly end the HIV epidemic until we look outside of the clinic doors. This updated National Strategy takes a big step forward by acknowledging systemic problems such as racism, stigma, health inequities and unjust HIV criminalization laws. We appreciate that the Biden Administration is not shying away from addressing these issues.”
The Academy also applauds the NHAS’ prioritization of growing the HIV care workforce. In 2020, the Academy surveyed its membership and found that 36 percent of respondents planned to retire by 2030. That same survey found that nearly 42 percent of respondents had experienced difficulties recruiting and hiring HIV clinical staff (MD, PA, NP, RN, Advanced Practice RN, Pharmacist) in the previous 12 months, with nearly 60 percent of respondents reporting having felt it more difficult to hire clinical staff than it was five years prior. Yet, 78.7 percent of respondents expected more providers would be needed for HIV-related care in their community over the next five years.
Legislatively, the Academy is actively supporting the bipartisan Bolstering Infectious Outbreaks (BIO) Preparedness Workforce Act (H.R. 5602), as well as the bipartisan HIV Epidemic Loan-Repayment Program (HELP) Act (H.R. 2295), which together will help build the next generation of HIV specialists, and infectious disease experts (including physicians, pharmacists, advanced practice providers, laboratory professionals, infection preventionists and dentists) to prepare for and respond to emerging health threats.
“We appreciate the continued focus on growing the HIV workforce, which is a core component to ending the epidemic,” stated Packett. “Expanding the workforce both in number and in diversity will better address many of the issues related to access to prevention and care, health inequities and disparities.”