Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Carl Dieffenbach, Ph.D., Director, Division of AIDS, NIAID
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., NIH Director
When the first cases of what would become known as AIDS were reported in 1981, scientists and physicians did not know the cause and had no therapies to treat those who were infected. Times have changed and today physicians can offer their patients highly effective medicines that work as both treatment and prevention. We can now speak credibly about having within our sights the end to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, when new HIV infections and deaths due to AIDS are rare.
Ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic as we know it will require using antiretroviral therapy (ART) to treat all infected people upon diagnosis, facilitating the implementation of an array of prevention tools including pre-exposure prophylaxis, and eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission. While recent scientific advances demonstrate these objectives are all possible, we must encourage universal HIV testing so that people know their status and are linked to care if infected and linked to a prevention program if at risk of infection. Approximately 50,000 people in the United States are newly infected with HIV each year, and about 1 in 8 of the 1.2 million who currently are infected do not know their status. Tragically, nearly a third of all new HIV infections in this country are transmitted by people who are unaware of their infection; another 60 percent of infections arise from people who are diagnosed but not in care.
We need to intensify our efforts to connect infected and at-risk people with needed health services to treat or prevent HIV infection. If all people infected with HIV were made aware of their status and began receiving consistent treatment and medical care, most new infections in the United States could be prevented. Additionally, connecting people to the “prevention continuum,” in which people at high-risk for HIV infection are regularly tested, counseled and provided a variety of prevention options, could reduce the spread of the virus even further.
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