The largest county in Washington, King County, which is both home to Seattle and reportedly the 13th-most populous county in the entire country, has reached a major milestone when it comes to HIV. And they did it years ahead of schedule.
A report produced jointly by Public Health-Seattle & King County and the Infectious Disease Assessment Unit of Washington State Department of Health, shows that King County is possibly the first major metropolitan region to achieve the World Health Organization’s "90-90-90 by 2020" goal.
As a way to eventually eliminate HIV and AIDS, the hope for all U.S. cities is to have 90 percent of residents who are HIV-positive know their status, 90 percent of those with HIV are on antiretroviral therapy, and 90 percent are virtually undetectable. Part of both an international initiative from UNAIDS and America's National HIV/AIDS Strategy, the 2020 plan is sometimes called "AIDS-free by 2020," because these efforts would dramatically lower cases of AIDS. For example, in New York (which is one of the country's leaders on the 2020 plan) the goal is to reduce new HIV infections from 3,000 to 750 or fewer per year, and reduce by 50 percent the rate at which New Yorkers diagnosed with HIV progress to AIDS.
But, Seattle and King County beat them to it.
“King County continues to be a global leader in public health,” King County's Dow Constantine told reporters in a statement. “The progress we’ve made toward ending AIDS in our community is the result of decades of hard work by our staff, strong community partnerships, and state and federal funding. We will continue to work together to end this epidemic in our region once and for all.”
A major part of the county’s strategy was their Public Health Department's work to make HIV testing easily accessible and routine, especially for those at high risk. Another priority was to provide outreach and assistance to people living with HIV who might not have access to the care they need.
The organization also reached out elected leaders, academic partners, and the Washington State Department of Health to help achieve these goals. Their efforts paid off.
“We have a lot to be proud of, but at the same time, now is not the time for complacency,” says Dr. Matthew Golden, director of Public Health’s HIV/STD program. “Our success with HIV is incomplete and potentially reversible. Rates of other sexually transmitted diseases, like syphilis and gonorrhea, are rising. And funding has not kept pace with increases in syphilis, which, coupled with increases in and complexity of cases, has forced us to reduce the intensity of some of our outreach efforts.”