COMMENTARY

HIV Care Saves Lives

Tom Frieden, MD, MPH

Disclosures

January 12, 2015

Editorial Collaboration

Medscape &

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One key to controlling HIV in the United States is helping those living with the virus to control it. More than 1 million Americans are living with HIV, and there are an estimated 50,000 new HIV infections each year.

Only 3 out of 10 Americans living with HIV were documented to have their infections controlled. And, most remarkably, two thirds of those with uncontrolled infections had been diagnosed but were still not in care.

This highlights the urgent need to both reach more people with HIV testing and especially to help ensure that those who test positive get prompt, sensitive, ongoing comprehensive care and treatment.

When it's used consistently, treatment with antiretroviral medication can keep HIV controlled in the body with undetectable viral load. This allows people with HIV to live longer, healthier lives and greatly reduces the chance that they will transmit HIV to others.

US guidelines now recommend that everyone with HIV should receive treatment, regardless of their CD4 count or viral load.

Here's what you can do:

First, test your patients for HIV as a routine, regular part of medical care. Far too many people with HIV don't know that they are infected. Knowing their status is a critical step to protect their own health and avoid transmission to others.

Second, for your patients living with HIV, do everything you can to be sure that they stay in care and take their medicines as you prescribe them. This may include getting supportive services they need, such as housing, care of addiction, or help for mental health problems. Staying on their HIV medications can give your patients a normal or nearly normal lifespan, and can reduce the risk that they will spread the virus to others by 96%.

You can provide the best possible care for your patients by working with your local health department to help get services and follow up so your patients stay in care.

It's not enough to diagnose patients. We have to take accountability and responsibility for each and every patient diagnosed in our facilities. Test them, get them on treatment, and get them into sensitive, effective care so they will live longer, healthier lives; stay out of the hospital; and not infect others.

That's our nation's most important strategy to help people with HIV live longer and to stop the epidemic.

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