As we kick off observance of International AIDS Awareness Month at CareMessage, we’re reminded of all the progress the world has made against this disease. More than 30 years after the first World AIDS Day, life expectancy is as high as 80 years for people who start and maintain proper treatment (in the 80s, it was 12 years from the time of infection), largely thanks to advancements in antiviral medication and increased public awareness.
We’re also reminded of how much more work there is to do for FQHCs. While there have been advancements, living a full life with HIV/AIDS depends on awareness, early recognition, and consistent management of the disease — goals that can be challenging for the underserved populations that FQHCs work with.
Understanding AIDS in 2019
Understanding AIDS and how it impacts underserved populations requires knowing what the disease looks likes today from a public health perspective. Here are a few of the latest statistics.
According to UNAIDS, as of 2018:
- 37.9 million people globally were living with HIV.
- 770,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses.
- 32 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the epidemic began.
- 62% of adults aged 15 years and older living with HIV had access to treatment, as did 54% of children aged 0-14 years.
- New HIV infections have dropped by 40% since the peak in 1997.
- AIDS-related mortality has fallen by 33% since 2010.
- TB is still the leading cause of death among people living with HIV, accounting for about one in three AIDS-related deaths.
- It is estimated that 49% of people living with HIV and tuberculosis are unaware of their coinfection and are therefore not receiving care.
- It’s estimated that $26.2 billion will be required for the AIDS response in 2020.
These statistics highlight a range of opportunities for FQHCs to contribute to the fight against AIDS.
How AIDS Impacts the Underserved
While AIDS affects people around the world and across the U.S., it has a bigger influence on some lives than others. Certain social determinants of health are associated with disproportionate impact by HIV.
In 2017, according to the CDC, 43% of all new infections presented among Black/African Americans, even though the group makes up only 13% of the population. Hispanics/Latinos were in a similar position, accounting for just 18% of the population, but making up 26% of all new infections. Women accounted for 18% of new infections, but Black women represented 62% of those new infections.
Additionally, while HIV infection rates have stabilized in recent years, they are still high among men who engage in sex with men (MSM) — they make up 4% of the population but 76% of new HIV infections in men.
Many of these discrepancies are complicated by the availability of services. Underserved areas typically lack access to adequate services such as pharmacologic interventions (TasP, PeP, and PrEP) and education and behavioral strategies.
Health Centers Face New Challenges in Combating HIV/AIDS
While health centers have been assigned a leading role in the White House HIV/AIDS Initiative to stop new U.S. HIV infections by 2030, NACHC has highlighted challenges around the sustained funding needed to achieve this goal. Tom Van Coverden, President and CEO of NACHC, offered his thoughts,
“Community health centers provided over 2 million HIV tests in 2017 and are a key point of entry for those at high risk for HIV...However, meeting the demands of this multiyear initiative will require sustained and secure long-term funding for health centers. At this time last year, health centers were confronting a funding cliff and forced to cut back hours and staff.”
All health centers will face new challenges in expanding services, but those in non-Medicaid expansion states where there is also a high concentration of residents with HIV/AIDS will feel the greatest pressure. These states include:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
Many of our partners might find that this month is an ideal time to tap into the benefits of our HIV health education program.
Created by a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, including physicians, psychologists, user experience designers, and health educators, this program aims to improve literacy around HIV and support disease self-management skills for underserved populations navigating the disease.
Sample Message: Managing stress is key for keeping your immune system strong and for staying motivated. Try these activities: going for walks, dancing, sports, support groups.
This program is a self-empowerment guide that includes information about diagnosis, resources, treatment options, and social support. If you’d like to learn more about how this health education program can be combined with your AIDS awareness initiatives, fill out the form below and we’ll talk.