A Call to Action on HIV and Opioids

Deputy U.S. Surgeon General Sylvia Trent-Adams told staff and grantees at the National Ryan White HIV/AIDS conference on Friday that lessons learned in the fight against the once-deadly virus are needed now in the opioid epidemic: "You have built the model" of care, she said. "Stigma is, and remains, our biggest killer."
Deputy U.S. Surgeon General Sylvia Trent-Adams told staff and grantees at the National Ryan White HIV/AIDS conference last week that lessons learned in the fight against the once-deadly virus are needed now in the opioid epidemic: "You have built the model" of care, she said. "Stigma is, and remains, our biggest killer."

 

"As with HIV/AIDS, many of our victims in addiction are young -- previously healthy and stigmatized by public perception that only certain groups of people become opioid addicts. That's not true. These individuals are labeled 'abusers.' They are isolated. They're discriminated against. And the term is often used in an offensive way, which keeps people from getting access to care." - RADM Sylvia Trent-Adams

Throughout the conference, speakers noted that the HIV epidemic and the opioid crisis are now intertwined -- "closely aligned and connected," RADM Trent-Adams said -- fueled by the widespread intravenous use of both prescription and illicit narcotics and syringe-sharing among those with opioid misuse disorder. Outbreaks of hepatitis, HIV, osteomyelitis and other diseases have been linked to IV opioid use, and the CDC warned earlier this year that the problem is particularly acute in rural communities.

"Like in the early years of HIV/AIDS, when homophobia led to responses of blame and fear, addiction is seen as a social problem rather than a defined disease," RADM Trent-Adams said. "At the crux of another public health crisis, we need to take responsibility as a community, as providers, as human beings, for those who are living with addiction.

"Since 1999, the number of drug overdose deaths has more than quadrupled," the Deputy Surgeon General added, urging grantees to stock and learn to administer the opioid-reversal drug Naloxone, and to teach others in their communities how to use it. "Deaths attributed to opioids were nearly six times greater in 2017 that they were 1999. There's a person dying of an opioid overdose every 12.5 minutes, and more than half these individuals die at home ... This epidemic is a crisis that knows no geographic or economic boundaries. And the impact of it is felt across racial and ethnic minorities, and especially in disadvantaged populations.

"Like the HIV/AIDS epidemic, addiction touches just about every family in the U.S."

 

Dr. Laura Cheever, Associate Administrator of the HIV/AIDS Bureau, closed the conference Friday afternoon, thanking the 4,000 attendees for their contributions to more than 240 workshops, 184 poster presentations, scores of business meetings, 40 exhibits and four plenary sessions over three and a half days.
Dr. Laura Cheever, Associate Administrator of the HIV/AIDS Bureau, closed the conference Friday afternoon, thanking the 4,000 attendees for their contributions to more than 240 workshops, 184 poster presentations, scores of business meetings, 40 exhibits and four plenary sessions over three and a half days.

 

On hand for the closing plenary were (L to R), Heather Hauck, HAB Deputy Associate Administrator; LCDR Shaun Chapman, Chief, Northeastern Branch, Division of Community HIV/AIDS Programs; former HAB Associate Administrator Deborah Parham Hopson (USPHS, RADM, ret.), and Lauresa Washington McCoy, HAB Supervisory Program Analyst; At right, Jennifer Moore and Amy Schachner helped organize the event.
On hand for the closing plenary were (L to R), Heather Hauck, HAB Deputy Associate Administrator; LCDR Shaun Chapman, Chief, Northeastern Branch, Division of Community HIV/AIDS Programs; former HAB Associate Administrator Deborah Parham Hopson (USPHS, RADM, ret.), and Lauresa Washington McCoy, HAB Supervisory Program Analyst; At right, Jennifer Moore and Amy Schachner helped organize the event.

 

RADM Trent-Adams (center) -- formerly HAB Deputy Associate Administrator in a 23-year career at the agency -- with CAPT Jeanean Willis Marsh, Dir. HAB Office of Program Support, and U.S. Public Health Service officers of HRSA.
RADM Trent-Adams (center) -- formerly HAB Deputy Associate Administrator in a 23-year career at the agency -- with CAPT Jeanean Willis Marsh, Dir. HAB Office of Program Support, and U.S. Public Health Service officers of HRSA.

 

Read more about the National Ryan White HIV/AIDS Conference.

Date Last Reviewed:  December 2018