The 2017 U.S. Conference on AIDS (USCA) opened today in Washington, DC, gathering over 3,000 community leaders and HIV advocates to learn the latest information and build skills to provide effective HIV prevention and treatment services across the nation. To give you a taste of the conference, we had the opportunity to share via Facebook Live our conversations with several presenters and participants about HIV-related stigma and also about curing hepatitis C coinfection among people living with HIV.
Combating HIV-Related Stigma
In our first conversation, Dr. Tim Harrison of the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy discussed the several conference sessions showcasing activities supported by the Secretary's Minority AIDS Initiative Fund (SMAIF). One of those sessions focused on hepatitis C coinfection among people living with HIV. Tim spoke to one of the session's presenters, Gloria Searson, President of New York City's Coalition On Positive Health Empowerment (COPE). She highlighted the efficacy of relatively new curative treatments for HCV and the importance of leveraging the lessons learned from the response to HIV to scale up a stronger response to the millions of Americans living with untreated hepatitis C, including individuals coinfected with HIV and HCV. Tim observed that the session had also featured two SMAIF-supported initiatives in the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program focused on curing HCV coinfection among clients. Previewing another one of the sessions focused on HIV-related stigma, Tim also spoke to Gabriel Maldanado of TruEvolution, an HIV services organization in Riverside, CA, and Victor Claros, an HIV advocate from Virginia. Both men talked about their experience of HIV-related stigma and the importance of both individual and organizational responses to combating it to reduce barriers to HIV prevention, testing, and care, especially in communities of color. Tim observed that the SMAIF-supported Care and Prevention in the U.S. (CAPUS) demonstration project included stigma reduction efforts as a key element. Gabe also noted that at the August meeting of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA), of which he is a member, the Council adopted a letter to the HHS Secretary expressing support of SMAIF and requesting that it continue to be fully funded. Learn more about SMAIF and the activities it supports on the recently updated pages on HIV.gov.
Curing Hepatitis C Coinfection Among People Living With HIV
Several sessions at the conference are exploring opportunities to cure hepatitis C coinfection among people living with HIV. To share some highlights of those sessions in our second Facebook Live event of the day Corinna Dan, Viral Hepatitis Policy Advisor at HHS, spoke with Peter McLloyd of the Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center, a clinic for the prevention, care, and research of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases in Chicago. Peter shared his story of living with HIV-HCV coinfection and his several, ultimately successful, attempts to effectively treat his HCV infection. Corinna observed that the National Viral Hepatitis Action Plan, the U.S. battle plan for combating viral hepatitis, identifies people living with HIV-HCV coinfection as among its priority populations given that one in five PLWH in the U.S. are living with HCV coinfection which can now be cured with the new highly effective treatments. She also highlighted some of the related federal actions underway, including activities supported by SMAIF in the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) to increase jurisdiction-level capacity to provide comprehensive screening, care, and treatment for HCV among HIV/HCV co-infected RWHAP clients and a new 2017 initiative to cure hepatitis C among people of color living with HIV. Peter also highlighted the vital role that nonfederal partners like his organization play in the Action Plan, in particular with regard to eliminating HCV coinfection among people living with HIV.
Over the next two days, we will be sharing additional highlights from the conference. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for details.
[Note from TheBodyPRO.com: This article was originally published by HIV.gov on Sept. 7, 2017. We have cross-posted it with their permission.]