For decades the HIV epidemic within the United States has withstood all efforts to halt it. Today, over one million Americans are HIV positive. 3% of them reside in Maryland, making it the state with the third highest rate of infection per 100,000 people in the United States. Becoming HIV-positive can be a devastating event, leading to monthly medical bills of $2,100 and many other medical conditions as the immune system declines. Thankfully, President Obama has recognized the importance of treating and preventing HIV and has released an ambitious strategy to halt its spread and provide high-quality care for those who are infected.
The plan’s most impressive goal is to lower the number of new infections per year by 25% by 2015. This will be accomplished by testing more people for HIV, making HIV therapy more available and affordable, and renewing efforts to education people about HIV. To ensure that these efforts are as effective as possible, they will be focused on populations that have the highest risk of becoming infected with HIV, including minorities, drug-users, and gay and bisexual men. Contributing factors to the high risk of infection includes insufficient access to health care services among minorities and insufficient sex education, especially for gay and bisexual men.
Another important innovation in fighting the spread of HIV is the recently announced Tenofovir gel. Tenofovir gel, a vaginal gel that includes the antiviral drug Tenofovir, has been show to cut a woman’s likelihood of infection by 50% after one year of use. Currently, condoms (both male and female) are the most common method used to prevent the transmission of HIV and other STIs. Although the results still need to be confirmed, the preliminary success of the gel’s trial is an important step in providing women with another option to protect themselves from infection.