President Obama’s administration has updated the National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the first time since its introduction in 2010. Additions have been made according to the accomplishments and lessons learned during the Strategy’s first five years. The new additions include a focus on the following activities:
- Widespread HIV testing and linkage to care
- Broad support for people living with HIV to remain engaged in comprehensive care
- Universal viral suppression
- Full access to comprehensive pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) services
Once again, ASA has been on the forefront of HIV prevention, working towards these goals through our 12 major programs. Our Testing and Linkage to Care program has provided HIV testing services, counseling, and connection to community resources in Central Texas for decades. Last year alone, ASA conducted more than 1,600 HIV tests free of charge. Supporting people living with HIV to get comprehensive care is also a key priority at ASA, with many of our programs tailored to make sure that clients find the best health resources suited for them and have complicating factors (such as good nutrition and oral healthcare) taken care of in order to achieve adequate viral suppression.
Of the four additions, access to PrEP has been a major concern here at ASA. While the pill offers great protection against contracting HIV, it is expensive, and many doctors have been reluctant to prescribe the medication (Truvada) to people who do not have HIV. Here at ASA, our testing staff work with anyone at risk to refer them to a doctor where they can get a prescription. Our CLEAR Program also gives information to those interested about PrEP services.
The Strategy’s four original goals, each of which is priority here at ASA as well, remain unchanged. Great progress had been made toward achieving two of the goals here in Austin— reducing new HIV infections, and increasing access to care—thanks to ASA’s programs and services. Our Condom Distribution Network is among the favorite preventative efforts in the community, making many volunteers eager to donate their time at our office assembling these packs. Increasing access to care is targeted by our case managers, who assist clients in accessing services such as health insurance, housing, employment, transportation, legal and financial assistance, and many more. ASA has helped thousands of Austinites in all aspects of HIV prevention and treatment every year since 1987.
The other two core goals – reducing HIV-related disparities and health inequities, and achieving a more coordinated national response- have also become a priority at ASA over the years. Our partnerships with St. Davis Hospitals, the David Powell Clinic, the Q Austin, and the Women Rising Project have in particular enabled us to provide social support, education, and testing services to a broader spectrum of individuals.
The Strategy update acknowledges that today there are still 1.2 million people in the United States living with HIV and notes that improvements need to be made in the following areas: awareness of status, linkage to care, engagement in care, and viral suppression. In order to assure successful implementation across the nation of the new priorities set and make improvements to the areas noted, a Federal Action Plan will be released in December.
Look for more information about ASA’s response to the Federal Action Plan in future postings.
Click here to view the complete National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020.