San Rafael, CA – December 1 marks the annual observance of World AIDS Day. More than 700,000 lives have been lost in the United States since the condition was widely recognized in the early 1980s. Almost 40 years later, advances in scientific research over the past decade are such that Bay Area and other health officials can conceive of ending the epidemic.
In 2012, the Federal Drug Administration approved the use of HIV medicine for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV. By taking one pill day, individuals can protect themselves from HIV.
Marin County has a strong network of service providers committed to HIV prevention and treatment.
Furthermore, science has validated the finding that Undetectable=Untransmittable
. HIV cannot be spread through sexual contact when the person carrying the virus is taking consistent medication so that the amount of virus in their blood cannot be detected. Also, testing technology has also improved. The virus can be found quicker, and people are linked to treatment so they are not infectious.
“We have the tools we need to end the epidemic,” said Dr. Lisa Santora, Marin County Deputy Public Health Officer. “For those of us who have worked with this disease for a long time, it is heartening to feel optimistic about the future.”
The federal government is investing in the effort to fight HIV by launching the Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America, which sets targets to reduce new HIV infections by 75% in five years and by 90% in 10 years. The Bay Area always has been on the cutting edge of AIDS programs, policy, and advocacy, and it will host the 2020 International AIDS Conference in San Francisco and Oakland from July 6-July 10. It is the world’s largest annual AIDS conference, and it’s estimated that 15,000 attendees will visit the Bay Area.
“The focus now has to be priority populations, young people and those facing stigma,” Santora said. “We need to work with our partners in reducing barriers and so people have access to the services they need to stay healthy.”
Since 1981, Marin recorded 2,116 cases of HIV infection and 1,201 deaths, including those at San Quentin State Prison. In the Marin community, there were 646 individuals living with HIV as of November 2019. New infections average around 18 per year, mostly among males between the ages of 25-54. HIV disproportionally affects people of color; there is a higher rate of infection among Hispanics and African Americans.
In Marin, there is a strong network of service providers committed to HIV prevention and treatment including the Spahr Center, now led by new Executive Director Dana Van Gorder, who bring decades of HIV experience and formerly provided state-level advocacy. Also, Marin Community Clinics, provides specialty care and have an evening drop-in clinic on Mondays and Thursdays for those looking to get tested for HIV. The clinics offer screening for other sexually transmitted diseases and offer PrEP as well.
The Spahr Center will host a public World AIDS Day Celebration on Monday, December 2, from 5:30-7 p.m. at 150 Nellen Avenue in Corte Madera.