Surveillance Data Is Integral to Improving HIV Prevention and Care

December 9, 2019 Pam Schwartz

How Surveillance Data Can Help Improve HIV Prevention and Medical Care

World AIDS Day on December 1 marked the 31st time that our nation has stopped to remember those we’ve lost to HIV/AIDS.

Because this year’s theme is, “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Community by Community,” this provides a good opportunity to note the advances we’ve made in public health and healthcare services, which are improving the lives of those living with HIV in 2019.  

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.  The virus weakens a person’s immune system by destroying cells that fight infection and disease.  There’s still no cure, but today HIV can be controlled.  Fortunately, in the medical and public health communities we have come a long way in the prevention and treatment of HIV.  There are now more than 30 antiretroviral drugs approved to treat HIV.  When used consistently, antiretroviral therapy (ART) can reduce the amount of virus in the blood and body fluids to very low or undetectable levels (known as viral suppression). As a result, people living with HIV who start ART early, remain on treatment, and achieve and maintain viral suppression can stay healthy and live a near-normal lifespan.

 

The trouble is, there are still many people diagnosed with HIV who do not have consistent HIV medical care. To that end, the U.S. federal government has rolled out a National HIV/AIDs Strategy: Updated to 2020,  which instructs healthcare and public health agencies to increase to 85% the number of people in consistent HIV medical care. The strategy also calls for healthcare and public health agencies to increase the percentage of people who are ‘retained’ in HIV medical care to 90%, and to increase those who achieve viral suppression to at least 80%.  This strategy also includes a goal to decrease the percentage of homeless persons in HIV medical care to less than 5% and reduce the death rate among those diagnosed with HIV to less than 33%.

To achieve these strategic goals, early intervention will be most critical. One of the best ways to interrupt the transmission of a communicable disease is to identify, notify, counsel, and test those in close contact with infected persons.  With HIV, that means finding out who an infected person may have transmitted the virus to, notifying them, providing them with counseling, and getting them tested.  Public health departments and electronic disease surveillance systems such as Conduent Public Health Solutions’ Maven play a crucial role as well. By partnering with healthcare and public health agencies, we can help conduct more thorough disease investigations and provide continued surveillance, leveraging both manual and automated techniques that include:

  • Contact tracing to identify those who may have been exposed by infected persons and automate notification efforts;
  • Alerts to highlight when specific simultaneous infections (otherwise known as co-infections) are present;
  • Event linking to connect key data points for more in-depth analysis, and;
  • Outbreak management tools to help contain HIV’s impact on people and communities served. 

Reach out to us at govhealthcare@conduent.com today to see a demonstration of Maven or call 1-844-ONE-CNDT to learn more.

About the Author

Director, Public Health Consulting, Conduent Public Health Solutions

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