Health Officials Set New Targets For HIV/AIDS Treatment, Diagnosis

Dec 1, 2015

An AIDS quilt on display at the Rhode Island Statehouse for World AIDS Day in 2014.
Credit RIPR file photo

Public health officials gathered at the Statehouse Monday to mark World AIDS Day, pledging to increase the number of HIV-positive residents who receive testing and treatment.

The state has joined an international initiative known as the "90 90 90 campaign," which seeks to get 90 percent of people with HIV diagnosed and into treatment for the virus by 2020.

Currently an estimated 2,840 Rhode Islanders are HIV-positive.

Health officials estimate that 89 percent of residents who have the virus have been diagnosed, a rate considerably higher than the national average. Roughly 60 percent of those infected are getting treatment, compared with just 40 percent nationwide. And of those in treatment, health officials said 56 percent have suppressed viral loads, compared with 30 percent nationally.

A suppressed viral loan means an HIV patient will be less likely to transmit the infection to another person.

Men who have sex with men continue to be at the highest risk for HIV infection. Amy Nunn, director of the Rhode Island Public Health Institute, said new infection rates also seem to be higher among black and Latino residents.

"I think it's between 10 and 20 percent of new infections in the state are among Latino populations," said Nunn. "I think it's important to keep that on our radar so that we're developing culturally competent responses to the local epidemics."

State health officials reported between 75 and 100 new HIV infections per year over the last few years.