Remembrance on World AIDS Day


Dr. Laura Cheever (HAB) and HRSA Adminstrator, Dr. George Sigounas, MS, Ph.D. presided over the observances of World AIDS Day. While viral suppression rates are rising, and minority groups have made major gains, youth exposure remains a persistent problem.

"We … commemorate World AIDS Day to show our support and commitment to helping those who are living with the disease and to remember those who lost their battle with HIV/AIDS in our country and around the world." -Dr. George Sigounas

 

United, persistent, committed: (Clockwise from left) Staff from throughout 5600 gathered on Nov. 30 to form the 2nd Annual HIV/AIDS ribbon;  Principal Deputy Administrator Brian LeClair, HAB Deputy Associate Administrator Heather Hauck and OA Sr. Advisor Joanne Hoff; Metropolitan HIV/AIDS Programs Dir. Steve Young, one of the longest serving leaders in HRSA's Ryan White program; Dr. David Meyers, AHRQ chief medical officer; Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz (SAMHSA), Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse.
United, persistent, committed:
(Clockwise from left) Staff gathered on Nov. 30 to form the 2nd Annual HIV/AIDS ribbon; Principal Deputy Administrator Brian LeClair, HAB Deputy Associate Administrator Heather Hauck and OA Sr. Advisor Joanne Hoff; Metropolitan HIV/AIDS Programs Dir. Steve Young, one of the longest serving leaders in HRSA's Ryan White program; Dr. David Meyers, AHRQ chief medical officer; Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz (SAMHSA), Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

 

"Invincible Youth":  Professor Lorece Edwards of Morgan State University and the Baltimore HIV/AIDS Commission detailed research findings that suggest the epicenter of the virus increasingly is young people.  They didn't experience the suffering and dying of the previous generation and tend to discount the threat, she said.  "Sensation seeking behavior" is pervasive, exacerbated by factors like homelessness and poor health care coverage, Edwards added.
"Invincible Youth":  Professor Lorece Edwards of Morgan State University and the Baltimore HIV/AIDS Commission detailed research findings that suggest the epicenter of the virus increasingly is young people. They didn't experience the suffering and dying of the previous generation and tend to discount the threat, she said. "Sensation seeking behavior" is pervasive, exacerbated by factors like homelessness and poor health care coverage, Edwards added.

 

This World AIDS Day, new data show HRSA's Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program continues to drive progress toward ending the HIV epidemic. On November 29, the 2016 Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Annual Client-Level Data Report was released providing an in-depth look at the demographic and socio-economic factors among clients served by the Program. The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program provides a comprehensive system of HIV primary medical care, medication, and essential support services for low income people living with HIV. In 2016, approximately 85 percent of Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program clients were virally suppressed, up from nearly 70 percent in 2010. This exceeds the national average of 55 percent virally suppressed.

"Overall, we've seen really great progress in … HIV-related health outcomes and in meeting the needs of people living with HIV," said the bureau's Stacy Cohen, who joined colleagues in a national webcast to discuss findings included in the 2016 Ryan White client-level data report.

 

HAB Data Analytics Team members include Miranda Fanning, Paul Mandsager, Tanya Geiger and Stacy Cohen.
HAB Data Analytics Team members include Miranda Fanning, Paul Mandsager, Tanya Geiger and Stacy Cohen.

 

"In addition to this remarkable increase in viral suppression, more clients are also receiving medical care," said Miranda Fanning, noting that 65,000 more clients received outpatient care last year than in 2012. Moreover, health outcomes and viral suppression rates among racial and ethnic minorities, who comprise nearly three-quarters of Ryan White clients, have significantly improved.

Still, boosting the health of certain populations, especially HIV-infected youth and young men of color who have sex with men, remains a challenge, suggested Paul Mandsager.

No one knows that better than Antigone Dempsey. She moved many in the audience with her affecting testimonial on the consequences of not knowing about the risk factors of AIDS when she was young.

"No one was really discussing young people having HIV, or women, because the epidemic really did hit the gay community very hard in the beginning," recalled Dempsey, now HAB's director of policy and data.. "I knew it (HIV) was there … but it wasn't something that I thought would impact me personally."

Until it did. As part of a general check-up, Dempsey got the news at age 22.

 

Antigone Dempsey
Antigone Dempsey

 

"In that moment, I was shocked to hear those words," she recalled. She began crying and waited while staff went to get her mother who waited outside. "I was so afraid that she wouldn't want to hug me, she wouldn't want to touch me when she came in ... there wasn’t treatment (then), and people were dying."

She learned she might have six months to live, two years if she were lucky. It was then that she found out about the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program in a call to a local hotline. She joined a support group and began sharing her story with others – something that in those days, "wasn't easy."

With the advent of anti-retroviral medications in 1997, Dempsey began treatment. Two years later she came east from California to work as a HRSA project officer, married and got pregnant in 2009.

Nineteen years after she tested positive for the virus that had taken so many lives, her son was born.

Today, Dempsey said, she considers herself "so lucky to have a beautiful family and a beautiful child," thanks in large part to HRSA's landmark grant program.

Read the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Annual Client-Level Data Report, 2016 (PDF - 892 KB).

Date Last Reviewed:  December 2017