US federal AIDS program has saved about 25 million lives worldwide, CDC says

A new report shows that a US federal program has transformed the global AIDS epidemic and saved an estimated 25 million lives since 2004.

The US President’s emergency plan for AIDS relief, known as PEPFAR, has increased the number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment for HIV from just over 66,000 people in 2004 to more than 20 million people in 2022, according to the report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control. and Prevention. PEPFAR was launched by former President George W. Bush.

This represents a 300-fold increase in the number of people receiving life-saving HIV treatment, said Hank Tomlinson, director of the CDC’s Global HIV and Tuberculosis Division.

The percentage of people receiving treatment through PEPFAR who reported having the virus under control – known as viral suppression – increased from 80% to 95% between 2015 and 2022. Viral suppression prevents transmission of HIV through sex and reduces the risk of mother-to-child transmission. infants.

“I still remember the early days of HIV and my time in the ER, where I often diagnosed patients with very late stages of HIV and didn’t have a lot of tools and treatments for those patients,” said CDC chief medical officer Dr. Debra Houry. “This new report shows us just how much progress has been made.”

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Researchers also found that PEPFAR created critical public health infrastructure that aided labs and testing for other diseases, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the program’s five-year strategy, health officials aim to eliminate HIV as a global public health threat by 2030.

“PEPFAR has not only made significant progress in the global response to the HIV epidemic, but has also strengthened the systems that protect the world against other global health threats,” said Tomlinson.

“The race to end HIV is far from over”

While the study authors celebrated PEPFAR’s successes, they also acknowledged gaps in care fueled by health inequities.

While viral load suppression rates have reached 95%, rates continue to lag among pregnant and breastfeeding people, children, adolescents and people living in prison, the report said. The data also showed lower rates in men compared to women, and in younger people compared to older people.

Eliminating health disparities will be impossible without addressing the social stigma that is still associated with HIV, said Maranda Ward, assistant professor of clinical research and leadership at George Washington University.

“We have a lot on our plate to ensure that the social realities of people exposed to HIV reflect the positive scientific advances we have seen,” she said. “It’s the only way to eliminate the disparities we see between the racial, ethnic, sexual and gender communities that account for the highest proportion of new HIV cases.”

To achieve the PEPFAR goal by 2030, the CDC recommends that the global community continue its efforts and investments, address health inequities, strengthen global health security, and collaborate with partners. international.

“To achieve this goal by 2030, we must maintain this momentum,” Houry said. “The race to end HIV is far from over.”

Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.

Coverage of patient health and safety at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: AIDS program has saved 25 million lives since 2004, CDC report finds

US federal AIDS program has saved about 25 million lives worldwide, CDC says

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