This summer at the International AIDS Conference, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated we can see a clear path now to an “AIDS-free generation.”
In the past this might have seemed like a far-fetched idea, but the medical field does in fact have the science, the technology and the means to achieve this goal. Doctors now know how to rapidly detect this virus and treat it with powerful drugs — many of them in single tablet regimens that are easy to take and to tolerate.
The largest challenge today in approaching the HIV epidemic is finding those who are infected with HIV and bringing them into care. Of the more than 34 million people that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates are living with this infection — including 1.1 million in the United States — one in five don’t even know they are carrying the virus. These undiagnosed individuals are responsible for up to half of the estimated 50 thousand new infections every year.
The most essential and powerful tool to defeating the HIV epidemic is controlling replication of the virus in the already-infected patient. If an individual tests positive for the virus, it is extremely important for them to begin antiviral treatment as soon as possible.
In what has truly been one of the most spectacular and revolutionary stories of modern medicine, HIV has gone from an untreatable virus that signaled a premature death sentence to a highly treatable, manageable infection. People with HIV infections are now living long, normal, healthy and productive lives if treated properly.
Once a person receives an HIV diagnosis, it is important that they seek advice and care from an infectious disease specialist to begin an effective, individualized treatment plan to suppress their virus and maintain a healthy immune system. People living with HIV in our community have the resources they need to receive exceptional and comprehensive care at the Regional Center for Infectious Disease (RCID) at Cone Health. By partnering with other HIV/AIDS providers, RCID offers multiple services for patients in one convenient setting—an exceptional team of Infectious Disease physicians and healthcare professionals, case managers, social workers/counselors and financial assistance.
Dr. Cornelius “Kees” Van Dam is an infectious disease specialist at the Regional Center for Infectious Disease at Cone Health and a leading researcher and expert on HIV and AIDS. Van Dam is a 2002 graduate of Medical College of Wisconsin. He completed his residency in internal medicine at University of Utah and completed his fellowship in infectious disease at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.