New initiative is under way to strengthen community leadership and mobilization toward ambitious HIV prevention and treatment goals against the backdrop of anticipated shifts in federal support and resources for critical programs.
NEW YORK, NY, January 30, 2017—Treatment Action Group (TAG) is pleased to announce the expansion of its Ending the Epidemic campaign to foster the development of bold epidemic-ending initiatives in some of the most heavily impacted regions of the United States. In close collaboration with its national and regional partners, TAG aims to strengthen partnerships in three southern states to substantially reduce HIV incidence and maximize health outcomes, and to support the community mobilization efforts required to foster the federal and regional political support necessary to meet established goals.
“This initiative seeks to expand the monumental community mobilization that ultimately led to the development and implementation of the blueprint to end HIV as an epidemic in New York State,” said Mark Harrington, TAG’s executive director. “Ambitious regional HIV incidence and survival outcomes require significant community coordination and unflinching support from state and other jurisdictional lawmakers. This demands robust community leadership and engagement every step of the way, particularly in regions where resources and political support are currently in short supply and there are significant concerns about federal commitments under the new White House administration and 115th Congress.”
The initiative will begin with a consultation of community stakeholders in southern states in April 2017, with additional TAG-sponsored meetings later in the year in the three jurisdictions to be selected by TAG and its partners. “What does it mean to end HIV as an epidemic? How do we translate the robust science and prevention and care toolboxes into strategies that will save lives and support health? How do we mobilize to protect, strengthen, and coordinate programs and services to meet epidemic-ending goals in the face of uncertainties regarding the future of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expansion, and other federal health programs? These are just some of the questions we need to be considering, particularly if we want all regions of the United States to meet and exceed the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy,” explained Tim Horn, Deputy Executive Director of HIV and HCV Programs.
“As the director of an STD/HIV program in the Deep South, I could not be more thrilled to see this initiative expand,” said NASTAD (National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors) board chair, Dr. DeAnn Gruber, STD/HIV Program Director for the Louisiana Department of Health. “This initiative aligns well with NASTAD’s longstanding work and the ‘Ready to End the HIV and Viral Hepatitis Epidemics’ Chair’s Challenge that calls on U.S. health departments to accelerate the end of HIV and viral hepatitis in the United States. We are working with health departments to ensure the program and policy building blocks are in place to support impactful prevention and care programs. I challenge all of my colleagues in both states and cities to join us in this unique opportunity at this moment in history to change the trajectory of HIV and hepatitis forever.”
The initiative will be coordinated through close collaboration with TAG’s national and regional partner organizations—notably AIDS Alabama, NASTAD, the Southern AIDS Coalition, the Southern HIV/AIDS Strategy Initiative, and SisterLove—and in the three selected jurisdictions. “The high level of knowledge, determination, and community engagement work by our southern colleagues has long been exemplary, particularly in the context of political indifference to the needs of people living with and vulnerable to HIV infection,” said Kenyon Farrow, TAG’s U.S. and Global Health Policy Director. “The goals of substantially lowering HIV incidence and improving health outcomes through increased viral load suppression rates, pre-exposure prophylaxis access and utilization, and the expansion of support services are very much shared by our southern state partners. Despite the considerable federal challenges on the horizon, we remain steadfast in our belief that we can still end HIV as an epidemic in all regions heavily impacted by HIV. TAG looks forward to supporting efforts to develop and implement ambitious, feasible, and cost-effective strategies.”
Southern states are disproportionately affected by HIV. Deep South states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas) are home to 28% of the U.S. population, yet they account for an estimated 40% of new HIV diagnoses, 43% of new AIDS diagnoses, 43% of all HIV-related deaths, and 34% of all people living with HIV in the United States., Black, gay, bisexual, and other black men who have sex with men (MSM) face an especially heavy burden, accounting for 59% of all HIV diagnoses among African Americans in the South. In fact, of all black MSM diagnosed with HIV nationally in 2014, more than 60% were living in southern states. Black women face an equally disproportionate burden of the disease, accounting for 69% of all HIV diagnoses among women in the South.
 Southern HIV/AIDS Strategy Initiative. HIV/AIDS in the U.S. Deep South: Trends from 2008–2013. Durham, NC: Duke University and Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research at Duke University; 2016. Available from: https://southernaids.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/hiv-aids-in-the-us-deep-south-trends-from-2008-2013.pdf.
 Southern HIV/AIDS Strategy Initiative. A Closer Look: Deep South Has the Highest HIV-related Death Rates in the United States. Durham, NC: Duke University and Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research at Duke University; 2016. Available from: https://southernaids.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/a-closer-look-deep-south-has-the-highest-hiv-related-death-rates-in-the-united-states-final.pdf.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). HIV Surveillance Report, 2014; 2015 Dec;26. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/library/reports/surveillance/.