Massachusetts Public Health officials are in Washington DC this week for the 2012 International HIV/AIDS Conference. According to some experts, the baystate leads the nation in HIV prevention. Kevin Cranston is at the conference Representing the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Infectious Disease. His presentation showcased Massachusetts HIV surveillance data from 2000 to 2009.
“In that time we’ve seen a 45% reduction in new HIV cases. That’s unprecedented in the country. And frankly, we’re not seeing that anywhere else in the world.”
Cranston attributes the drop in new diagnoses to Massachusetts’ lawmakers commitment to funding HIV research, prevention and care. He says they’ve set aside a sizable amount of money to combat the epidemic since it surfaced in the 1980’s. This year that’s about 32-million dollars. Cranston adds Massachusetts has become the only state in the nation guaranteeing universal access to retro-viral therapy. He says that’s a result of the state’s health care system.
“We’re the first state in the country to expand our medicaid program to allow for the coverage of people with HIV — not AIDS. In most of the rest of the country — even today — you have to have an AIDS diagnosis.”
Cranston says the theme of this year’s conference is “Treatment as Prevention.” He says new research shows with anti-retroviral medicine, HIV can be reduced to an undetectable level. He says if an HIV positive partner achieves this — what is known as “pro-viral suppression” — risk to an uninfected partner drops by 96 percent.