This morning, I received an email from Dr. Marwan Haddad that he had sent to his co-workers at CHC yesterday and that our Chief Medical Officer forwarded to me. It captures beautifully both the importance of the battle against HIV and what makes CHC such a special place.
Tomorrow is World AIDS Day. It is a day to remember all those we have lost to this terrible disease, those we knew and those millions we did not know who lost their lives to AIDS worldwide. It is also a day to embrace those who are living with and affected by HIV and to stand up against the stigma that fuels the discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS and prevents so many of those who do not know they are infected from testing.
This year there is a call to work towards an AIDS-free generation at home and abroad. And as lofty as this goal sounds, it is one that can be achieved. The reason we have the means to achieve this is because of the amazing advancements that have been made in HIV prevention and treatment over the past years.
We have made advancements in strategies to prevent transmission, whether it is preventing an infected mother from transmitting HIV to her child or whether it is preventing a husband from transmitting it to his uninfected husband or wife or even whether it is preventing men and women from getting infected from the casual partners they do not know are infected. We have developed strategies of prevention for almost every scenario.
The HIV treatments that we have available today are better than they have ever been and are easier to take. We also know that if the HIV infected person takes his or her medications properly and regularly, not only does their risk of transmitting the infection to others get dramatically reduced, but for many, their own lifespan is extended to near the lifespan of the general population.
Yet, the struggle must continue. We have also learned in the last year or so that only about a quarter of those who are infected with HIV in the United States are engaged in care, on HIV medication, and are virally suppressed. That number needs to improve drastically in order for us to achieve the AIDS-free generation we are calling for in this country,
We as a community can do our part. We need to encourage people to get tested. We need to stand up against stigma. We need to engage people. We need to educate. We need to not judge. We need to stand up and fight for the strategies and treatments that we know work—like STD education, condom use, and syringe exchange. We need to ensure that all HIV infected persons have access to treatment and access to medications. We need to find ways to reach out to those who we are most burdened with new infections—youth, women, minorities, and gay men, particularly the young black and Hispanic gay men.
I know that you all at CHC are engaged in this fight and I am proud to be working with you and be your colleague!
I also would like to take this moment to acknowledge the amazing and now ever-growing team I work with, whom I have seen fight tirelessly against the stigma that our patients face. I have seen them hold our patients’ hands when our patients most need it. I have seen them quietly crying for our patients when they thought no one was looking. I have seen them nurse our patients back to health. I have seen new providers be as fearlessly committed to caring for these patients as the experienced providers. I have seen them make immeasurable differences in our patients’ lives!
To all of you, Thank you!
Here’s to our continued work together in forging the path towards an AIDS-free generation!