US White House AIDS strategy to focus on prevention

* Studies support treating HIV patients with drugs

* US also aims to reduce disparities

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON, July 12 (BestGrowthStock) – A new White House strategy
for fighting AIDS domestically will focus on preventing the
spread of the virus, perhaps with the broader use of drugs and
testing but also with a campaign to reduce stigma.

Obama administration officials will release the strategy on
Tuesday and said it would focus on prevention, care and
reducing disparities.

“The plan will serve as a roadmap for policymakers,
partners in prevention, and the public on steps the United
States must take to lower HIV incidence, get people living with
HIV into care, and reduce HIV-related health disparities,” the
White House said in a statement on Monday.

More than 1.1 million people in the United States are
infected with the human immunodeficiency virus that causes
AIDS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, with 56,000 new infections over the past decade.

While only about 5 percent of patients infect someone else,
this is enough to keep levels of the virus stable in the United
States, the CDC says. The fatal and incurable virus is spread
during sex, in blood and breast milk and by contaminated
needles.

The U.S. government has a program to fight AIDS globally —
the so-called PEPFAR or President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS
Relief — but there has not been a similar coherent domestic
strategy.

“The National HIV/AIDS Strategy is a comprehensive plan
focused on: 1) reducing the number of people who become
infected with HIV, 2) increasing access to care and optimizing
health outcomes for people living with HIV, and 3) reducing
HIV-related health disparities,” the White House said.

Experts have disagreed on how best to do this but recent
studies have supported theories that treating HIV patients with
drugs can not only keep them healthier, but help reduce the
likelihood that they will infect someone else.

One study of people across Africa showed those who took
drugs infected their sexual partners who took AIDS drugs were
92 percent less likely to infect their partners with the virus.
[ID:nnN17549665]

DRUG COCKTAILS

More than two dozen HIV drugs are on the market, including
several in combination pills to make it easier to take a
cocktail of the drugs.

The CDC estimates that 79 percent of Americans with HIV
know it and experts say people who know they are infected can
take steps to avoid infecting others. The CDC recommends
testing everyone for HIV, with an option to refuse the test,
instead of forcing people to ask to be tested.

The new U.S. strategy likely will include measures to
broaden testing.

Recent studies have shown that using tablets, insertable
rings, gels or dissolving films with prescription AIDS drugs
can help protect women and perhaps men from infection with the
AIDS virus.

Some of these so-called microbicides being tested use
dapivirine, a drug made by Johnson & Johnson’s (JNJ.N: ) Tibotec
Inc, the entry inhibitor maraviroc sold by Pfizer (PFE.N: ) under
the brand name Selzentry, and another experimental HIV drug
called DS003, licensed to the International Partnership for
Microbicides by Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY.N: ). [ID:nnN24264552]

The AIDS virus infects 33 million people globally and has
killed 25 million since the pandemic began in the 1980s.

In Africa, most new AIDS patients are women infected by men
during sex. In the United States HIV disproportionately affects
men who have sex with men, blacks and Hispanics.
(Editing by Bill Trott)

US White House AIDS strategy to focus on prevention