ADM Giroir Discusses Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America with APHA
We talk to professional organizations all of the time about the importance of HIV screening. We’re instituting HIV screening and PrEP referrals through all our Title X clinics. We’re integrating it with sexually transmitted infection clinics, so a lot of things are happening right now at this moment.
So I don’t want to just say it’s all going to happen in the future, but clearly if the budget is funded and we get nearly $300 million — $291 million in new money — that’s when the effort is really going to start taking place. We look forward to that in the next couple of months.
We hope that the funded grants will enable communities to really make serious plans, to put some money in, to put some thought in and put some modeling in. So that’s kind of the state where we are right now.
Where do you see the program being in a year or two?
I think we’re going to be rocking and rolling in a year or two, because the momentum is gathering.
And I want everybody to understand that if we’re successful, the number of HIV diagnoses will double or triple in the next two years because that means we’ll be reaching people who have not been reached. Instead of waiting three years, four years, five years, seven years for their diagnosis, they’re going to be reached within the next six months to a year.
The estimates are that about 160,000 people are now living with HIV who have not been diagnosed. So if you just start looking at that, I see the number of diagnoses going up.
I see the momentum going up. I see the country rallying behind this.
What drives you in this initiative?
Look, I’ve lived through this. When I was a late medical student and intern, I had a whole group of children who came in and died of HIV. There was no hope for them. They had hemophilia. They had renal disease. There was no treatment. There was huge stigma.
So I saw HIV at its onset before we knew what it was, when it was just a death sentence. Now we’ve transitioned this to, in most cases, a true chronic disease. If you can get into treatment and take your medicine, your life span is almost normal.
Now we’re seeing the natural conclusion, and that is the end to this epidemic. We can essentially eliminate HIV from this nation, and hopefully around the world, to get it to very small numbers.
And everyone here at HHS (is) incredibly excited and humbled by the opportunity.
I feel it’s my moral obligation to do it. That’s what’s driving me, and also the motivation of all of the people around me who have worked their careers to get to this point. So I’m just really honored to be part of the team working with such great people, and I’m happy to do my part to make this happen.
— Interview conducted, edited and condensed by Mark Barna
For more information on “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America,” visit www.hiv.gov