MEXICO CITY, Mexico — The NC AIDS Action Network (NCAAN), Latino Commission on AIDS (LCA) and Southern AIDS Coalition released new results of a public opinion survey data from seven southern states showing strong support for public policies to combat HIV. NCAAN and LCA presented the results of the survey at the 10th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science in late July.
The data shows strong public support for expanding Medicaid, requiring insurance companies to cover PrEP and medically accurate, comprehensive sex education. The results also show that far too many residents are not knowledgeable about breakthroughs in HIV science. Only a minority of residents were aware of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) in all seven states.
Even worse, only a small minority (12-18 percent) of residents believed the statement, “People living with HIV who regularly take their medication, and achieve viral suppression, cannot transmit HIV through sexual contact.” It’s well documented in the scientific community that individuals who achieve viral suppression and undetectable status can not transmit HIV to their sexual partner, the organizations shared. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “People who take ART daily as prescribed and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner.” This scientific fact is known as Undetectable = Untransmittable or U = U.
“The South is the epicenter of the HIV epidemic, and we’ve known for years what is needed to drive down new HIV transmissions. These poll results show that Southerners want policy changes to address our health care needs, we just need policymakers to listen to their constituents,” said Judith Montenegro, program director for the LCA’s Latinos in the Deep South project.
“We’ve come a long way in the HIV treatment and prevention community,” said Lee Storrow, NCAAN executive director. “We’ve still got a long way to go. We hope these survey results will serve the advocacy community by showing proof that the public supports the policies our advocates have been speaking out on. The results about knowledge of U = U are alarming and should serve as a challenge to hasten our public education efforts on viral suppression.”
The survey was performed by Public Policy Polling on behalf of the NCAAN from July 16-17 with financial support provided by AIDS United’s Southern HIV Impact Fund.
In other news, NCAAN recently celebrated the birth of Medicaid at a program at East Carolina University.
“The Medicaid program is a critical safety net for people living with HIV in our state,” Storrow said. “The program provides access to HIV medicine for thousands of residents of our states, and serves as a gateway to PrEP for low-income residents of our state who want to make sure they stay HIV negative. As our state debates further opportunities and expansion of the program, we should also celebrate it’s success in keeping our residents healthy for more than 50 years.”
Medicaid is the number one health provider for people living with HIV in the United States. It provides people living with HIV in North Carolina access to comprehensive healthcare coverage, which leads to higher viral suppression rates and better health outcomes. Recent studies have shown that people living with HIV that have comprehensive health coverage have better viral suppression rates than people just accessing their HIV medication.