By Tam Van, PhD, Manager, HIV, Hepatitis, STD & TB Programs, APHL
December 1st celebrates the annual observance of World AIDS Day, a global initiative started in 1988. This day is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, educate themselves and others about HIV, raise awareness of the risk of HIV infection and provide support for those affected by HIV. An estimated 34 million people globally are infected with HIV and nearly 30 million have succumbed to the disease since the first case was reported in 1981. In the US, about 1.2 million people are infected with HIV, but 240,000 or approximately 1 in 5 individuals are unaware of their infection.
In observance of World AIDS Day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a Vital Signs report, which emphasizes the positive outcomes of HIV testing and entering patients into early care and treatment. CDC also launched a new, national HIV awareness campaign, Testing Makes Us Stronger, to promote HIV testing among black gay and bisexual men. This campaign is focused on six US cities with high prevalence of HIV infection: Atlanta, Baltimore, Houston, New York City, Oakland, and Washington, DC.
One step toward reducing the spread of HIV is to get tested. Early detection of HIV infection and initiation of treatment can result in suppression of the virus in infected patients. Reduction in viral load and behavioral change can potentially lead to longer life expectancy for infected individuals and reduce transmission to partners.
The forthcoming release of the CDC and APHL interim guidelines, which include new HIV testing algorithm for diagnosis of HIV infection, comes at an opportune time. Data on the performance of the proposed algorithm was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Virology. These supplemental articles are currently in press. The new testing algorithm has benefits that include improved turnaround times, better detection of acute HIV-1 infections both of which could lead to decreased HIV transmission due to early notification of HIV infection.
There is still much work to be done, but laboratories armed with the combination of new technologies, improved knowledge of HIV/AIDS and their continued commitment to public health are key partners in the global fight against the AIDS epidemic.