World AIDS Day: How Local Health Departments are Acting Now to End the Epidemic

Dec 01, 2015 | NacchoVoice

lamar-hasbrouck-headshot-2015By LaMar Hasbrouck, MD, MPH, Executive Director, NACCHO

Today is World AIDS Day, a day to remember those who have lost their lives to HIV and AIDS, reflect on our progress and the challenges that remain, and unite in our commitment to an AIDS-free generation. The U.S. theme for World AIDS Day 2015 is “The Time to Act Is Now.” This year presents an opportunity to celebrate tremendous progress in expanding access to HIV prevention, treatment, and care; focus on the ambitious—but feasible—targets to end the HIV epidemic; and achieve the UNAIDS vision of “zero new HIV infections, zero HIV deaths, and zero HIV stigma.” We know what it takes to prevent HIV infections and improve the lives of people living with HIV. We must continue to build on our successes by scaling up what works, now.

Local health departments (LHDs) have been leaders in the successes we have achieved and respond to the call for action every day. This leadership was on display last month at the White House when the Office of National HIV/AIDS Policy (ONAP), in partnership with the International Association of Providers in AIDS Care (IAPAC) and UNAIDS, hosted the U.S. Fast Track Cities Initiative and National HIV/AIDS Strategy Consultation. The consultation convened health officials and HIV program managers from local and state health departments, community representatives, healthcare providers, public policy experts, and federal agency representatives. Participants discussed current efforts and new opportunities to fast-track the local HIV response within the context of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which was updated to 2020 in July of this year, and the Fast-Track Cities Initiative, which was launched last year in Paris on World AIDS Day. As of this World AIDS Day, five U.S. cities have signed on as Fast-Track Cities: Atlanta, Denver, Miami, Oakland, CA, and San Francisco.

NACCHO was honored to collaborate with IAPAC, ONAP, UNAIDS, the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, and the Urban Coalition for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services to help design the consultation and participate in the successful and invigorating conversations held throughout the day. The meeting began with insightful and inspiring presentations from distinguished leaders in the field, including Michele Sidibé, Anthony Fauci, and Douglas Brooks, who provided the global, domestic, and scientific context for where we are today and what we should be looking to in the future. The remainder of the meeting was focused on highlighting work in cities, counties, and states.

New York State discussed its efforts to establish a plan for how they will end the AIDS epidemic and New York City highlighted the importance of listening to what people need and designing programs that are responsive to those needs. San Francisco echoed this sentiment and demonstrated its efforts to meet people where they are by expanding access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and getting newly diagnosed HIV-infected individuals on antiretroviral therapy as rapidly as possible via their RAPID program. Washington, DC, shared how it is working with partners across the metropolitan area to address health inequities and institute a paradigm shift in how HIV prevention and care services are delivered. Denver discussed how it is financing HIV prevention and care and coordinating with the healthcare system to maximize program effectiveness and improve HIV outcomes. Broward County (FL) and Fulton County (GA) emphasized the importance of and challenges to obtaining local data for planning and programmatic purposes, including developing local HIV care continuums, effectively linking and re-engaging clients in care, and targeting HIV testing and PrEP. A meeting report is expected shortly, which we will share as soon as it is available.

NACCHO is dedicated to supporting LHDs’ leadership and efforts to achieve the vision laid out in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, that “the United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare, and when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination.”

To remain updated on World AIDS Day, follow AIDS.gov and use the hashtag #WAD2015 on social media. Additionally, UNAIDS released a special World AIDS Day website with the theme “On the Fast Track to End AIDS.”

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