Mass. to share AIDS successes at conference

Tuesday July 24, 2012

For the first time since 1990, the International AIDS Con ference is being held in the United States this week, and Massachusetts is there to share some of its successes in combating the disease.

Kevin Cranston, director of the Bureau of Infectious Disease at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, will share some data at the conference today, including a reported 45 percent reduction of new cases of HIV between 2000 and 2010 in the state.

"We see this as a continuing trend," Cranston said of the rate reduction during a phone interview from the conference in Washington, D.C.

In Massachusetts, a total of 1,179 cases of new HIV infections emerged in 2000 while 648 new cases were diagnosed in 2010. Cranston said that Massachusetts is believed to be the only state to see a reduction of diagnoses in gay and bisexual men.

Cranston attributed the overall reduction to "extraordinary access to HIV medication and care"; health care reform and expansion of Medicaid to clients with HIV; the outreach of community health centers; and a strong focus on treatment as a form of prevention.

HIV/AIDS programs in Berk shire County include Tapes try Health, which has offices from Pittsfield to Springfield, and Project Empowerment at Berk shire Health Systems, which last year took on the role of delivering services previously offered by the American Red Cross. Calls made seeking comment from these agencies were not returned as of press time.

For fiscal 2013, Cranston said Massachusetts has approximately $31 million to allocate toward HIV prevention and care.

Though dollars can't be shared across state lines, Cranston said he regularly meets with other New England states to share data and strategies for prevention and screening. He said he works closely with the staff of the New York State AIDS Institute of the Department of Health in Albany, because the HIV/ AIDS epidemic shares similar traits in both states.

"You need all hands on deck to fight an epidemic," he said.

While at the International AIDS Conference in Washing ton, D.C., Cranston said he hopes to learn more strategies in the areas of prevention, care, data-tracking and medical breakthroughs. He said the best thing individuals can do to keep healthy is to regularly get tested for HIV and know their status. For people already living with HIV and/or AIDS, he recommends getting a prescribed care plan and keeping up with treatments.

He said conference participants have confidence in the progress that's being made to control and prevent the disease on a global scale.

"What we've seen in Mas sachusetts is a real inspiration. If we do it right, we can change the course of this epidemic," Cranston said.

HIV, AIDS status in Berkshire County

Between 2007 and 2009, Berkshire County had an average annual HIV diagnosis rate of 5.1 people per 100,000, while the state average was 9.4.

As of Dec. 31, 2010, there were an estimated 121 people living with HIV/AIDS in Berkshire County, and 17,621 people living with HIV/AIDS in the state.

-- Source: State Department of Public Health


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