Top 10 Things Public Health Practitioners, Government Policymakers, and Community Advocates Need to Do to Move to the End of HIV and HCV

By Murray Penner July 14, 2015

Last month, I spoke at the closing plenary of the HIV Forum for Collaborative HIV Research National Summit in Arlington, Virginia. I began with a brief look back at how the fight against the HIV epidemic has evolved. I reflected on a time when there were only a few tools and even fewer resources available to make an impact on the disease. This is in direct contrast to the progress that we have made in today’s fight, where we have many tools available to us that work to combat and bring an end to the HIV and HCV epidemics. But I am reminded, and wanted to remind everyone in attendance, that a challenge still remains. We need to work differently and more effectively to bring an end to both of these epidemics. The following is an excerpt from the presentation I gave, where I provided a top 10 list of things that we must consider and incorporate in our work to end both epidemics.

  1. Work and think in completely new ways: collaborate, leverage resources and advocate with ALL stakeholders.
  1. Ensure that the Ryan White Program remains strong and fills the gaps in services being provided by the Affordable Care Act and other programs. We should also begin to consider expanding the program to allow for treatment and services for people mono-infected with hepatitis C is feasible (not at the expense of HIV treatment and services).
  1. Ensure that public health systems, insurance payers, primary health care and other systems interact seamlessly with each other.
  1. Break down data siloes and improve collection methods, delivery timeliness and accuracy to ensure programs that improve outcomes and are keeping people engaged in the health system are being strengthened. It is also vital that we improve hepatitis C surveillance, including work toward establishing a national hepatitis C surveillance program.
  1. Focus on services for gay men and in particular, young gay and bisexual men of color - not at the exclusion of other populations - with a particular emphasis on finding innovative ways to use social media and mobile apps to reach this population.
  1. Provide comprehensive drug user health and harm reduction programs to address the needs of people who inject drugs and, in particular, the epidemic of opioid abuse. To that end, public health officials, law enforcement and substance use programs must collaborate in new and different ways.
  1. Meaningfully address social determinants of health and reduce health inequities, including programs to undo racism and homophobia. Here at NASTAD, we are working to incorporate and be conscious of how we can integrate the principles behind ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter and other social movements into our programming and other areas of our work.
  1. END the Congressional ban on the use of federal funds for syringe access. We need to base decisions on science and effective public health outcomes, NOT on political ideologies. States and local jurisdictions must continue to or begin to fund these programs as well.
  1. Increase the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), making it available for all who could benefit from it.
  1. Provide routine HIV and HCV testing to EVERYONE, without barriers, and provide treatment to ALL infected with HIV and HCV as soon as possible. In addition, provide mental health, substance use treatment, and other supportive services, like stable housing, to those who need it to ensure everyone who has access to HIV and HCV treatments can get healthy and stay healthy.