Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) testifies ahead of a Senate hearing on health, education, work and pensions to receive an update from federal officials on efforts to fight COVID 19 to be tested in the Dirksen Senate office building on May 11, 2021 in Washington, DC.
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The Chief Medical Officer of the White House, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that the U.S. can still meet its goal of ending the HIV epidemic by 2030, despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has temporarily closed test sites for other diseases and reassigned medical staff .
Fauci, who oversees research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of established infectious diseases at the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, told a House committee that the nation has not “gone backwards” in the fight against HIV. Efforts to fight the pandemic have displaced other medical research and postponed some drugs in development as drug companies redirected research and resources to Covid-19 treatments and vaccines.
“Of course, if you close society, access to testing and the chain to drug availability can be disrupted in the same way that everything is disrupted, including vaccinations for children,” he said during a hearing with the House Committee on Appropriations and the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Personal Services.
Around 1.2 million people in the US are currently living with HIV, and about 14% of them don’t know they have it, according to government data. According to US data, around 38,000 Americans contract the virus every year.
In 2019, the Trump administration announced a pledge to end the HIV epidemic in the US by 2030, a goal public health advocates have hailed and sought for years. However, some proponents later raised concerns that the health care impact of the pandemic would lead to a surge in new HIV infections.
Fauci, who has advised at least seven US presidents on HIV and other health issues, mentioned a number of advances in HIV care on Tuesday.
People at risk of HIV can now take preventive drugs, also known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, he said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PrEP can reduce the risk of infection through sex in people who take the drug on a daily basis by about 99%.
“The PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is an important part of our attempt over a 10-year period from 2020 to 2030 to end the epidemic in the US,” he said. “I believe, despite Covid-19, that we will achieve this goal.”