September 6, 2017
Written by Susan Ryan-Vollmar
This article originally appeared in HIV Plus Magazine.
Before signing the Paris Declaration on Fast-Track Cities at Boston City Hall in August, Mayor Martin J. Walsh wanted to make something clear: He’s grateful not just for the work of those in his administration who are pushing policies to end the transmission of HIV, but also for the advocacy of the Getting to Zero Coalition.
“The work you do is so important,” Walsh said. “You never know when an outbreak [of HIV] is going to happen potentially, and the stigma around all of this is daunting. So I think we have our work cut out for us here in Boston to set a tone for the rest of Massachusetts and the country.”
In signing the Paris Declaration on Fast-Track Cities, Walsh committed to taking the steps necessary to ensure that by 2020, 90 percent of Boston residents living with HIV are aware of their status, 90 percent of those diagnosed with HIV receive treatment with antiretroviral therapy, and 90 percent of those in treatment achieve “viral suppression”—a state of health from which it is nearly impossible to transmit HIV to another person.
Thanks to the city’s long history of taking the public health steps necessary to contain HIV as well as the efforts of community-based organizations and healthcare centers like AIDS Action Committee, Fenway Health, and the other members of the Getting To Zero Coalition, Boston has already met the first of the three steps: 90 percent of those estimated to be living with HIV in the city of Boston (approximately 5,884 people), have been diagnosed with HIV.
The next step is to get 90 percent of them connected with a healthcare provider who is not only prescribing the medicine they need to treat their HIV, but also treating other HIV-related healthcare issues. Currently, about 72 percent of those living in Boston with a diagnosis of HIV (about 4,236 people) are engaged in care. Of them, only 70 percent (about 3,707 people) have achieved viral suppression.