This week, the PBS NewsHour is airing a series called The End of AIDS: Far From Over from correspondent William Brangham and producer Jason Kane. The five reports describe why, despite major advances in the treatment of HIV and AIDS, places such as Russia, Nigeria and Florida are still struggling to contain the virus.
While the series explores some of the impediments to successful treatment in these places, it also shows promising developments — like several Russians who are promoting treatment and battling discrimination in their communities.
TV Rain news anchor Pavel Lobkov, who went public with his HIV-positive status three years ago, became one of the only public figures in Russia to disclose their status. Lobkov says he wanted to show people that one can live a healthy life with HIV treatment.
Tatiana Vinogradova, deputy director of the St. Petersburg AIDS center, and her husband Andrei Skvortsov, who is living with the virus, appeared in a public ad campaign that says “People with HIV are just like you and me.”
And Alexander Chebin runs an informal network of activists in Russia collecting antiretroviral drugs and mailing them for free to HIV-positive people throughout Russia who can’t otherwise access them.
Here is a look at other efforts that are exploring new treatments or trying to lift the stigma around HIV and AIDS:
- A new method of testing. In southern Nigeria, the Akwa Ibom state has a new method of testing for HIV/AIDS, not just for pregnant women but for those of all ages and sex. The so-called Test and Start Approach would catch the virus early, lessening the transmission rate. “Studies have shown that if HIV positive persons stay consistently on drugs for six months, the viral load will drop and the possibility of transmission will reduce,” said Dr. Nkereuwem Etok, director and project manager of the Akwa Ibom State Agency for the Control of AIDS. [The Guardian]
- Increasing access. AIDS Free Pittsburgh is working to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS by normalizing HIV testing, increasing access to PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) to help those at highest risk for contracting HIV/AIDS, and linking those who are diagnosed with medical care. The Pennsylvania Department of Health estimated that 2,910 people lived with HIV in Allegheny County in 2016. It also documented 127 new cases of HIV. The group said this week it is hoping to reduce the rate of new HIV infections by 75 percent by 2020. [New Pittsburgh Courier]
- Closing the transportation gap. Meals on Wheels of Central Indiana just started delivering food to people living with HIV or AIDS throughout the state, where “access to food is hard,” said Nick Fennig, project manager. “There might not be a grocery store or food pantry nearby, or they don’t have transportation to get there. So having the food come directly to their house is one less thing to worry about,” he said. More than 12,000 people in Indiana live with HIV or AIDS. The program, which people can sign up for cost-free, serves about 250 people about 2,500 meals a week, with about 20 people added each week. [The Indianapolis Star]
- More AIDS funding. San Francisco Mayor Mark Ferrell is adding $4.2 million to the city’s budget for HIV/AIDS programs including prevention, testing, and syringe access and disposal programs. Part of the money will go toward the Getting to Zero initiative, started in 2014, which aims to have zero new HIV infections and deaths in the city by 2025. [KTVU.com]
- Apps can help keep treatment on track. An app called PositiveLinks designed to help people with HIV self-manage their illness is showing improvements in patients’ health, according to researchers at the University of Virginia Health System. Over the course of a year, it’s helped patients stick with their treatment schedule and given them access to a virtual support group. Researchers reported a 30 percent improvement in 12 months in the number of people who regularly attended clinic visits. [NBC29.com]