As clinics and health departments across the country have shuttered during the coronavirus pandemic, the nation’s roughly 2,200 disease detectives, the so-called “contact tracers” of infectious disease outbreaks, have been re-deployed to track where cases of COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — are spreading, to try to stop those outbreaks in their tracks. It’s a necessary shift, but one that may have serious, long-term impacts for the country’s sexual health, and for President Trump’s year-and-a-half-old plan to “eliminate” HIV from the US by 2030.
[…] According to a recent NCSD survey of HIV and STD disease tracers around the country, 83% are forgoing their usual field visits as a result of this pandemic. Two-thirds of the country’s clinics (66%) have also reported decreases in health screenings and testing due to COVID-19.
The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) will hold its 67th full Council meeting virtually on Monday, June 1 and Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), the council members will each participate from home, presenters will join remotely, and stakeholders can view the meeting via livestream online.
During the meeting, the Council will:
Welcome a new member;
Discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the HIV response;
Engage with federal HIV leaders on the status of the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative and the Federal responses to prevention and care access challenges resulting from COVID-19; and
Hear perspectives and lessons learned on HIV and COVID-19 from PEPFAR.
The Council will also hear public comments during the meeting. Individuals wishing to make a public comment must pre-register by emailing PACHA@hhs.gov. If you do not pre-register for public comment but decide you would like to submit a statement, please email your written statement to PACHA@hhs.gov by close of business Tuesday, June 9, 2020.
The meeting convenes on Monday, June 1 and Tuesday, June 2, 2020 from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM (ET) each day. It will be livestreamed at www.hhs.gov/live. To register, please email Caroline Talev at PACHA@hhs.gov.
Learn more about PACHA on HIV.gov, where you can find links to previous meeting summaries and slides, including those from the February 2020 PACHA meeting held in Washington, DC.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) understands that its partners in HIV prevention are facing unprecedented challenges and demands as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic together.
While some clinics and HIV prevention providers have adapted to changing circumstances by offering expanded phone triage and telehealth services, other clinics that provide pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) services have had to reduce hours, eliminate or reallocate staff resources, or temporarily close.
CDC has developed guidance for providing PrEP when facility-based services and in-person patient-clinician contact is limited. For programs experiencing disruption in PrEP clinical services, CDC offers the following guidance for clinics to consider in the context of local resources and staff availability.
More than 160,000 Americans with HIV are unaware they have the virus because they have not been tested and diagnosed. Yet we know that early diagnosis and treatment with ART are associated with better health outcomes for those with HIV. There are profound prevention benefits as well—a CDC analysis found that the nearly 15% of people with HIV whose infections are undiagnosed account for 38% of all HIV transmissions in the U.S. By finding ways to help more people get tested, we can prolong lives and prevent further transmissions.
That’s why HIV testing is a key strategy in Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America (EHE), the nation’s plan to reduce new HIV infections in the U.S. by 75% by 2025 and by 90% by 2030. The first of the Plan’s four strategies calls for diagnosing all people with HIV as early as possible after infection so they can begin care and treatment that can protect their health and prevent transmission of the virus to their partners.
Stakeholders across the country are exploring innovative ways to pursue this EHE strategy and seeking to make HIV testing more available to previously unreached populations, such as those who live far from the nearest testing site or who are concerned about confidentiality. One innovative model includes HIV self-testing programs, sometimes called “home HIV test giveaways.” These are programs in which city or state health departments advertise free self-test kits via the internet and/or dating apps, and distribute the kits by mail so that users can perform their own HIV tests in private.
The pandemic that has upended life in the U.S. could lead to increased STD rates and setbacks in the fight against HIV as public health resources are shifted to the coronavirus response.
Access to STD and HIV testing and treatment services are dwindling as local health departments shuffle staff to respond to COVID-19 and clinics reduce hours or close altogether and cancel outreach programs.
“We are seeing a complete disruption to STD prevention here in the United States,” said David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD). “We expect to experience even higher STD rates as a result.”
New guidelines have been set by the NIH in regards to persons living with HIV. This interim guidance reviews special considerations for persons with HIV and their health care providers in the United States regarding COVID-19. Information and data on COVID-19 are rapidly evolving. This guidance includes general information to consider. People with HIV who have COVID-19 have an excellent prognosis, and they should be clinically managed the same as persons in the general population with COVID-19, including when making medical care triage determinations.
On April 21, 2020, GLMA, Whitman-Walker Health, the National LGBT Cancer Network, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, the New York Transgender Advocacy Group, and SAGE issued a second open letter to public health officials, healthcare institutions and government leaders on the impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ communities. The letter, joined by 170 organizations, called for action to protect LGBTQ patients from discrimination and to include sexual orientation and gender identity in data collection efforts related to the pandemic. The letter also called for action to address the economic harm to LGBTQ communities from the pandemic.
The letter released on April 21 is a follow-up to an open letter signed by more than 150 organizations issued by the six coordinating organizations on March 11, 2020. Information on the first letter is available here.
Matthew, 30, keeps an emergency stockpile of his life-saving HIV medication at his home in Sacramento, California. He started building his stash shortly after he was diagnosed six years ago, on the recommendation of people he met through a forum for those living with HIV. Without his once-a-day pill, his viral load would increase and his general health would decline.
Now, over a month after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic, Matthew hasn’t broken into his stash. But, like many of the 1.1 million HIV-positive people in the United States, he has questions about how the ongoing crisis could affect his access to medication and his chances of contracting the coronavirus, and whether his chronic immune condition could put him at a higher risk of complications due to COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.
“Being positive, it puts it at the forefront of your mind,” Matthew, who requested that his last name not be used to protect his medical privacy, told NBC News. “You have to be present and aware.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday the visibility LGBTQ people brought to themselves during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic helped change the tide for public perception.
Fauci made the remarks during the daily White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing when responding to COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on black Americans, saying the disease has “shed a light” on health disparities in the United States much like HIV/AIDS did with LGBTQ people.
“During that time, there was extraordinary stigma, particularly against the gay community,” Fauci said. “And it was only when the world realized how the gay community responded to this outbreak with incredible courage and dignity and strength and activism — I think that really changed some of the stigma against the gay community, very much so.”