We’ve fought long and hard against HIV, with many new successes in recent years. Annual diagnoses in the United States are down nearly 20 percent compared to a decade ago, and we’ve seen striking declines among African-American women and people who inject drugs. Powerful prevention tools, including medicines to treat and prevent infection, now enable us to speak not only about fighting HIV, but about ending the nation’s HIV epidemic.

Work left to do

Progress, however, has been uneven. Diagnoses have remained high among gay and bisexual men — increasing among Latino and African American men in recent years, and particularly among gay and bisexual males in their teens and 20s across various races.

To build on the successes we’ve achieved nationally and make sure everyone benefits, we must continue to focus on high-impact interventions, guided by the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

Testing and treatment

Nearly one in eight people living with HIV in the United States do not know they are infected. When people know they have HIV, they are able to receive HIV medical care and treatment and take steps to prevent transmission to others.

Treatment helps people with HIV live longer, healthier lives and can help them achieve viral suppression — meaning that they have very low levels of HIV in their blood and have very little risk of transmitting HIV to others.

“Informed conversations help fight stigmatization and encourage people to use prevention and treatment services.”  

Successful treatment requires regular doctor visits, daily medicine and a strong support network. This can be difficult, particularly for people who are poor, lack health insurance, or face stigma and discrimination. Our public agencies must work to connect people to HIV medical care soon after they’re diagnosed and to help them stick to appointments and treatment regimens over the long term.

Getting PrEPped

For people who don’t have HIV and are at substantial risk of getting infected, there are more prevention strategies than ever before. These include PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), a daily pill that can reduce the risk of HIV infection by more than 90 percent. Unfortunately many Americans, including health care providers, don’t know about PrEP. We must work to expand PrEP awareness and access, including support for demonstration projects to learn new ways to deliver this highly-effective option to those who could benefit most.

What can you do?

This World AIDS Day, I’m calling on you to join me in the fight against HIV. You don’t have to be a doctor or a scientist — anyone can help stop the epidemic with some simple preventative steps.

Most importantly, everyone ages 13 to 64 should get tested for HIV at least once — those at increased risk for HIV infection should be tested at least once a year. These include, but are not limited to, sexually active gay and bisexual men; people who have another sexually transmitted disease, hepatitis, or tuberculosis; people whose sexual partners are living with HIV; and people who inject drugs.

Talking about the disease and raising awareness is also important. Informed conversations help fight stigmatization and encourage people to use prevention and treatment services. Knowledge is power.

Finally, try and reduce your risk as much as possible. Use the CDC’s Risk Reduction Tool to learn how best to protect yourself and others. Consistently and correctly use PrEP and other protections that are effective in preventing the spread of HIV. Together, let’s take advantage of the progress we’ve made to help stop this epidemic.