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Viral suppression provides hope on World AIDS Day

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  • Edwin Viera 

As part of World AIDS Day, a report finds through treatment, patients are able to suppress HIV – the virus that causes AIDS.

According to data from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, in New York, almost 89% of people receiving medical care are virally suppressed.

While this is a little lower than the national average of 89.7%, it’s an improvement since the disease reached its peak.

Dr. Laura Cheever – associate administrator of the HIV/AIDS Bureau at the federal Health Resources and Services Administration – described what makes viral suppression so important in fighting HIV/AIDS.

“We do not have a cure for HIV or a vaccine, but we have all the tools we need to end the HIV epidemic in the United States,” said Cheever. “For someone who gets tested and started on medication and takes them every day, they can achieve what we call viral suppression – which means they’re not cured, but we can’t measure the virus in their body.”

With viral suppression, a person with HIV can live a near-normal life and cannot transmit the disease sexually.

Cheever said one of the most important points about the disease is that anyone can get it – so anyone who is sexually active should be tested for HIV regularly.

And despite the major developments made in treating HIV/AIDS, there’s still plenty of work to be done.

Cheever said she finds some of that work is getting people who test positive for HIV started on medical treatment – which means getting more people tested is a top priority.

“The work that’s really in front of us is, first, getting people tested,” said Cheever. “As I’ve said, one in eight people with HIV in this country don’t know they have it, because they haven’t been tested. For people that are tested and do not have HIV infections but are at high risk for acquiring it, they can be started on PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis.”

She added that stigmas about HIV and AIDS persist, one of which is homophobia.

But with new treatment options available, people with HIV can live long and healthy lives.