Important Happenings in HIV/Health Policy
Week ending: March 8, 2019
By: Sable K. Nelson & Matthew Rose
NOTE: President Trump released his FY20 budget request to Congress, including top-line funding requests for federal HIV/AIDS programs, on March 11. Supplemental information, including line item details for each agency, is expected to be released on March 18.
The annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) was held from March 4 to March 7, 2019, at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, Washington. CROI brings together top basic, translational, and clinical researchers from around the world to share the latest studies, important developments, and best research methods in the ongoing battle against HIV/AIDS and related diseases. Below please find some of the highlights from CROI 2019:
Bit by Bit, Scientists Gain Ground on AIDS
Recently revealed research at the CROI showed promising leads in tactics and medicines fighting the epidemic. According to two trials, monthly injections of long-acting HIV drugs proved as good as daily pills at suppressing the virus. In another study, Descovy, a new formulation of the HIV treatment Truvada, proved just as effective at suppressing the virus, and may have fewer — or at least different — side effects. A study of the “test and treat” strategy produced mixed results – offering widespread home testing plus treatment to the sickest patients did reduce the number of new transmissions, but offering immediate treatment to all did not help as much as had been expected. And a study of pregnant women in Uganda and South Africa showed that 74 percent of women who got dolutegravir-based drug cocktails in their third trimester had no HIV in their blood when they gave birth. For more information, READ -> https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/08/health/hiv-aids-research.html
One of the great things about CROI is the level of access that they offer for those that can no attend in person. The majority of content from the conference can be accessed at http://www.croiwebcasts.org/
The ‘London Patient’ Goes into HIV Remission: Here’s What that Means for HIV Treatment
The “London Patient’s” success story confirms what many scientists had already suspected: that CCR5 is a viable target for HIV treatment. Consequently, the subject of ongoing research encompasses strategies to treat HIV using CCR5: the administration of drugs that bind to CCR5 and stop the receptor from working, as well as gene therapy to cut out the CCR5 gene and thereby prevent the receptor from being made. According to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, while stem cell transplants may not necessarily replace medications for the widespread treatment of HIV, there is hope that a cure will be discovered in the near future. For more information, READ -> https://abcnews.go.com/Health/london-patient-hiv-remission-means-hiv-treatment/story?id=61564150
PrEP Use Jumps to 35 percent Among Gay and Bisexual Men At-Risk of HIV
In a study presented in Seattle at the 2019 CROI, data revealed that 35 percent of gay and bisexual men at high risk of HIV were using PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, the daily pill that prevents obtaining HIV, in 2017. In 2014, just 6 percent of these men used PrEP. However, despite the nearly 500 percent jump in PrEP use among men who have sex with men, the CDC notes “PrEP use remains too low, especially among gay and bisexual men of color.” For more information, READ -> https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/prep-use-jumps-35-percent-among-gay-bi-men-risk-n980516
Non-CROI Related Articles
OPINION: This is Not A Cure for My HIV
In the wake of the news about a second person who may be free of HIV, Gregg Gonsalves, an HIV/AIDS activist and advocate, and an assistant professor at Yale, asserts that the focus on the London Patient is a distraction from the work we need to keep focusing on. For more information, READ → https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/09/opinion/sunday/cure-hiv-aids.html
Immigration Groups Want Data on HIV Asylum Seekers
The U.S. has never provided data on the number of HIV-positive refugees or asylum seekers admitted since the immigration law changed in 2010, despite efforts from groups including the Center for American Progress and Immigration Equality. U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services has said it can’t comment on individual cases, but a spokesperson noted the 2010 law that allowed people with HIV to enter the country and said the agency reviews each case on its own merit, with decisions based on relevant laws and evidence. Aaron Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality, explained that it’s important to break down the data on asylum seekers living with HIV and reveal it to the public because it would help determine whether asylum officers and immigration judges are, in fact, being fair, when deciding who can enter the U.S. to pursue a claim. For more information, READ -> http://gothamist.com/2019/03/11/immigration_hiv_asylum.php
What You Can Do
TAKE ACTION: It is very important that our elected officials hear from us to protect federal funding for HIV prevention and care. Speak truth to power by sharing your personal stories with your elected officials. It is vitally important to meet to your federal elected officials when they are at home. If we don’t support and advocate for HIV funding and programs, who will? Our movement cannot afford to stand on the sidelines. Your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives need to hear from you.
- Find your U.S. Senators: https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
- Find your U.S. Representative: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative
What NMAC is Doing About It
- NMAC remains vigilant in its advocacy to protect FY20 government funding and the existence of the social safety net.
- NMAC is working in coalition to defend the right of people living with HIV to serve in the US military.
- NMAC is working to understand the president’s budget request and what it can mean for this year’s appropriation cycle.