Lake County Public Health is a partner in a statewide effort to stop new HIV infections. Oregon Health Authority issued this press release Wednesday about the state's efforts to stop this disease:
Access improves, but report says too few tested
Increased access to viral suppression medication that makes a person living with HIV less infectious, and to medication that prevents infection in the first place, are helping lay the groundwork for eliminating new transmissions in Oregon, according to a new report.
The End HIV Oregon Annual Progress Report was released Dec. 1 — World AIDS Day — a year after the initiative’s launch. It shows steady progress has been made in the last year toward its goal of stopping new HIV infections by 2021. But the report also shows not enough Oregonians are getting tested, which would help them know what prevention and treatment services they need.
The 2017 Progress Report is available at the End HIV Oregon website, under “Downloads” at the bottom of the main page.
The initiative is helping more people get antiretroviral medication that reduces their risk of sexually transmitting the disease. About 76 percent of people with HIV in Oregon are now virally suppressed due to programs such as CAREAssist, which helps pay insurance premiums and pharmacy co-pays, and saw a 5 percent increase in the number of clients it serves. An OHA-funded Multnomah County effort also expanded housing support to people with HIV. And program improvements make it easier for people to access and maintain HIV medical care, such as ensuring all Oregonians with HIV who earn up to 2.5 times the federal poverty limit are eligible for services that help them adhere to HIV medications.
End HIV Oregon also made advances since 2016 in HIV prevention through efforts to increase access to pre-exposure prophylaxis, known as PrEP. It beat its goal of adding 100 new medical providers to a PrEP provider directory to begin offering it to individuals most in need, such as partners of HIV-positive people, and men who have sex with men testing positive for syphilis. PrEP also is covered by the Oregon Health Plan.
An estimated one in four Portland-area men who have sex with men are believed to now be taking PrEP. In 2016 the number of providers prescribing PrEP or people taking it was not known.
“We’ve accomplished a lot in the last year with the help of community HIV service providers across the state, including getting more pre-exposure prophylaxis medication into the hands of individuals at greater risk, and making sure people living with HIV can access antiretroviral medication,” says Sean Schafer, M.D., medical director for HIV programs at the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division. “But people need to know their HIV status, and testing does that.”
In addition to a focus on testing, prevention and treatment, End HIV Oregon aims to ensure all people living with HIV have access to high-quality care, free from stigma and discrimination. OHA leads the effort, with partners that include the statewide Integrated HIV/Viral Hepatitis/STI Planning Group; Cascade AIDS Project; Eastern Oregon Center for Independent Living; EMO HIV Day Center; HIV Alliance; public health departments in Clatsop, Deschutes, Lake, Lane, Malheur and Multnomah counties; Oregon Centers for Independent Living; Oregon AIDS Education and Training Center; Our House; Partnership Project; and Quest Center.
Strides have been made in testing. Six local public health departments were awarded funding to provide HIV early intervention services and outreach in 13 Oregon counties. In addition, OHA and the Oregon AIDS Education and Training Center, along with several major health systems, began working together to identify policies, procedures and tools to support routine HIV testing within health systems.
Still, only 35 percent of adult Oregonians have ever been tested for HIV. The goal: 100 percent.
“We can get to 100 percent, but we must double down on finding innovative ways to improve testing in the next four years,” Schafer says.
For more information about End HIV Oregon, visit the program's website.