*Results of a study released May 12th showing that the early introduction of antiretroviral drugs immediately after an HIV diagnosis deters the spread of HIV are “highly encouraging,” said C. Virginia Fields, President and CEO of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc. (NBLCA).
“We applaud the efforts of the courageous individuals and highly respected scientists who participated in the trial, known as HPTN 052,” Fields said. “They have made an important and significant contribution to the fight against HIV/AIDS. Certainly, more scientific study is called for. The results of this trial, although extremely encouraging, is not a panacea. Ultimately, researchers, supported by sufficient funding from our federal government, must step up their efforts to find a cure for this devastating global HIV/AIDS pandemic. Three decades of living in the dark shadow of HIV/AIDS is long enough!”
Fields added: “This highly encouraging study supports what the NBLCA, other organizations, and infectious disease specialists have been saying for years. Knowing one’s HIV status and gaining early access to treatment and care is beneficial both for the individual and the community at large. In 2010, armed with this scientific knowledge, the NBLCA played a leading role in successfully amending Article 27F of New York State’s Public Health Law to require medical practitioners to offer HIV testing to New Yorkers between the ages of 13 and 64 in all appropriate medical settings, as recommended by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The idea is simple – a patient who tests positive for HIV can be linked to treatment and care early in the course of their infection, as opposed to later when they become sicker. This early treatment benefits the patient by keeping them healthier longer and reduces the community’s viral load.”
On Thursday, May 12, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Myron Cohen from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, announced the findings of a $73 million HIV trial involving 1,763 couples in 13 cities and four continents, including Africa, Asia, South America, and North America.
One member of each couple in the trial was infected with HIV. The other member was HIV-negative. In half of the couples, the HIV-positive member was placed on antiretroviral medications as soon as he or she tested positive for HIV. The remaining half of the couples was only placed on antiretroviral medications when the HIV-positive partners’ CD4 cell counts dropped below 250, a sign of significant weakness in the immune system. The study concluded that patients with HIV were 96% less likely to transmit the virus to their partners if they were taking antiretroviral medications upon immediate diagnosis of their HIV infections. Ninety percent of the couples participating in the study were heterosexual.
Fields pointed out that the CDC estimates that 25% of the approximately 1.1 million Americans living with HIV do not know that they are infected. “With African Americans accounting for nearly 50% of all new HIV infections and AIDS cases as of 2008, according to the CDC, we know that there is great benefit to the Black community for routinized HIV testing coupled with immediate linkage to treatment and care,” she said. “The findings of this trial support the need for more African-American participation in HIV/AIDS clinical trials. The NBLCA continues its strong advocacy at all levels of government for voluntary routine HIV testing nationwide.
“NBLCA encourages all individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity or sexual orientation, to get educated about HIV, get tested so that they know their status and can be linked to early treatment and care, and finally, get involved in community efforts to fight this dreaded disease,” Fields concluded. “HIV/AIDS stops with us!”
The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, founded in 1987, is the oldest group of its kind addressing the HIV/AIDS disparity among African Americans. A not-for-profit organization, its mission is to educate, mobilize and empower Black leaders to meet the challenge of fighting HIV/AIDS and other health disparities in their local communities.
Current activities of the NBLCA include:
*The NBLCA has an ongoing, year-long campaign in 2011 to respond to the fact that this is the 30th year of living with AIDS. The campaign, entitled ’30 years Strong! Together We Will Win!’ consists of an online commemorative journal that tells the stories of people infected by and affected by AIDS. The goal of the campaign is to “put a human face on AIDS” and reinvigorate efforts involving testing, prevention, treatment and a cure.
*The NBLCA has developed legislation that lays out a comprehensive plan for the federal government to lead the way in marshaling resources in the fight against HIV and AIDS. The legislation, H.R. 1462/S. 795, the National Black Clergy for the Elimination of HIV/AIDS Act of 2011, as introduced last month by Rep. Charles Rangel and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.
*The NBLCA will open an important new chapter in the domestic fight against HIV/AIDS by hosting the first annual induction of leaders and corporations into the Hall of Hope and Remembrance. The Choose Life Hall of Hope and Remembrance, akin to a Hall of Fame, will recognize the stellar contributions of select individuals and corporations in the areas of HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care in the United States. The first inductees will be honored at the NBLCA’s annual Choose Life Awards Benefit Reception on June 9, 2011 at 583 Park, New York City.
The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, founded in 1987, is the oldest group of its kind. A not-for-profit organization, its mission is to educate, mobilize and empower Black leaders to meet the challenge of fighting HIV/AIDS and other health disparities in their local communities. The NBLCA conducts policy, advocacy and research on HIV/AIDS issues and ensures the effective participation of its leadership wherever public policies are developed and resources are allocated. For more information, visit www.nblca.org.