Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), testifies before a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing to examine an update from Federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on May 11, 2021 in Washington, DC.
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White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that the U.S. can still achieve its goal of ending the HIV epidemic by 2030 despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which saw testing sites for other diseases temporarily shut down and medical personnel being reassigned.
Fauci, who oversees research to prevent, diagnose and treat established infectious diseases at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a House committee that the nation has not gone “backward” in the fight against HIV.
Efforts to combat the pandemic have supplanted other medical research, putting some drugs under development on hold as pharmaceutical companies diverted research and resources to Covid-19 treatments and vaccines.
“Obviously, when you shut down society, the accessibility for testing and the chain for drug availability can be disrupted the same way everything is disrupted, including vaccinations for children,” he said during a hearing by the House Committee on Appropriations and the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services.
Roughly 1.2 million people in the United States are currently living with HIV and about 14% of them don’t know they have it, according to government data. Roughly 38,000 Americans become infected with the virus each year, according to the U.S. data.
In 2019, the Trump administration announced a pledge to end the HIV epidemic in the U.S. by 2030, a goal that public health advocates have cheered and sought for years. However, some advocates later expressed concerns that the pandemic’s impact on medical care would lead to a rise in new HIV infections.
Fauci, who has advised at least seven U.S. presidents on HIV and other health issues, on Tuesday mentioned a number of advances in HIV care.
People at risk of HIV can now take prevention medication, also known as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP, he said. PrEP can reduce the risk of infection from sex by about 99% in people who take the drug daily, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis, is an important ingredient in our attempt over 10 years from 2020 to 2030 to end the epidemic in the United States,” he said. “I believe, notwithstanding Covid-19, that we will achieve that goal.”