By Marcia Quackenbush, MS, MFT, MCHES | July 15, 2015
Senior Editor, ETR
Yesterday, I heard that the United Nations had met their goal to treat 15 million people with HIV before the end of 2015. Officials were pleased to have reached this point early. The report also mentioned drops in the number of new cases and reductions in worldwide deaths from HIV.
There’s actually all kinds of encouraging news about the HIV epidemic. More people are accessing treatment, people with HIV are living longer, cases among children are down by 58%, tuberculosis-related deaths among people with HIV are down, and investments in prevention and treatment are up.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says we are on our way to an AIDS-free generation, and we can end the epidemic by 2030.
Like many others in the health care and prevention education worlds, this kind of news feels personal to me. I started out my professional career working in an AIDS and mental health organization. My colleagues and I were in the thick of the San Francisco epidemic of the mid-1980s. We lost clients, friends and each other to this disease.
I am thrilled that, worldwide, we are on a path to end the epidemic. And I am heartsick that so many millions are still affected. The numbers continue to astonish me. Thirty-five million people on this earth are living with HIV, and, in 2013, 1.5 million died.
We’ve made great progress in our prevention efforts, and the CDC’s focus on high-impact prevention has given us tools to reach those at greatest risk with effective community-based interventions. My friends and colleagues at ETR’s Community Impact Solutions are some of the folks carrying out these programs, and I’m impressed every time I talk with them. They are dedicated, driven, compassionate and informed. They are making a difference.
Thinking about the work they do helped me clarify my take-home from the UN announcement. We can’t give up our commitment. We can’t stop the effort. In the U.S., 1 in 8 people with HIV continue to be unaware of their status. There are still people who don’t get into treatment, and others who fall out of care.
I don’t think the human brain can really conceive of these numbers—35 million people with HIV worldwide, 1.2 million in the U.S. But we can hold in our hearts those we’ve known who’ve been affected by this epidemic—who’ve cared for loved ones, who’ve become ill, who’ve died, who’ve survived, who continue to speak up, and be present, and be a part of this life.
We aren’t done yet. Let’s keep up the good work!
By the way, ETR has a range of materials addressing HIV (both prevention and living with HIV), available at the online store. These may be of help in your own work to end the epidemic.
Marcia Quackenbush, MS, MFT, MCHES, is Senior Editor at ETR.