The following is an email from Dr. Marwan Haddad to our CHC staff helping in the day to day battle against AIDS:
We are now three decades into the HIV epidemic. Though we have made great strides in these last 30 years, HIV continues to be a local, national, and global problem!
The latest statistics from CDC estimate about 1.2 million people in the U.S. are infected with the virus but only 80% are diagnosed. Of those diagnosed, only about half are referred and retained in care. Of those retained in care, 89% are treated with HIV medications but only 77% achieve HIV viral suppression. Once they crunched these numbers, they found that only 28% of people who are HIV infected are retained on treatment and are virally suppressed. Looking at it another way, 72% of those infected are NOT in care and on successful treatment. This is an astonishing statistic.
As we all know here at CHC and as we make great strides to do our part in improving these statistics, these numbers reinforce the need for our vigilance to not falter. Universal HIV testing for those aged 13-64 at least once and more often for those who are at increased risk must continue. Once we identify those who are infected, linking them to care in a facility that will more likely keep them engaged in care is critical.
I am happy to report that our screening rates have improved from about 40% to about 67% across the agency. Thank you and Congratulations to all of you for including HIV as part of your routine testing. This is an incredible achievement!
Yet, I believe we can always do better, not only by pushing the rates even further up but also by looking at the number of patients who are declining the HIV test which forms a significant part of our screening percentage.
I am also happy to report that we continue to grow in the numbers of HIV patients we are caring for, both through referrals from the community and through our internal screening and referrals. Starting in the new year, we are planning on expanding our HIV care to multiple CHC sites through the ECHO-model. I believe this will provide a much needed service in our communities where we will be able to engage HIV infected patients in care and keep them retained and on treatment.
In reflecting on this relentless and devastating disease and in thinking about the millions and millions of people across the globe whom we have lost because of it, it is more important than ever to keep fighting against HIV. Thank you for the work that you all do that contributes to this fight and that improves the lives of our patients and our communities.