(NBC) – President Donald Trump is launching a campaign to end the HIV epidemic in the United States by 2030, targeting areas where new infections happen and getting highly effective drugs to people at risk.
Briefing reporters ahead of Trump’s State of the Union speech, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and senior public health officials said the campaign relies on fresh insights into where about half of new HIV cases occur — 48 out of some 3,000 U.S. counties, and Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and seven states with at-risk rural residents.
“We’ve never had that kind of ‘This is the target,'” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s pre-eminent AIDS warrior and head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The government has “been trying to address HIV, but never in such a focused way,” he said.
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.
“Together, we will defeat AIDS in America and beyond,” Trump said in his speech. He pledged funding in his upcoming budget, but did not say how much.
Trump’s move is being greeted with a mix of skepticism and cautious optimism by anti-AIDS activists. They’re flagging his previous efforts to slash Medicaid health care for low-income people, and his administration’s ongoing drive to roll back newly won acceptance for LGBTQ people.
While Azar said significant new funding would be included in the president’s budget, he also emphasized that the campaign is about making more efficient use of existing programs like the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which provides medical care and support services.
Today’s HIV treatments work so well they not only can give people with the AIDS virus a near-normal life expectancy, they offer a double whammy — making those patients less likely to infect other people.
At the same time, a longtime HIV medication named Truvada can prevent infection if taken daily by healthy people who are at risk from their infected sexual partners, a strategy known as “pre-exposure prophylaxis” or PreP.
The 48 counties HHS is focusing on are mainly metro areas. The states are Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and South Carolina.