“Increasing Impact through Transparency, Accountability, and Partnerships”
Each year, the global community unites to observe December 1 as World AIDS day. Today, communities around the world honor those who have lost their lives to AIDS, acknowledge the collective commitment to support those at risk or living with HIV, and celebrate organizations, individuals, and communities that support those living with HIV/AIDS. As a global family, we acknowledge the impacts this disease has on all communities regardless of race, age, gender, socio-economic status, or country. Though AIDS continues to be a global pandemic, advances in medicines, research, practice and health initiatives have created tools to better respond to the current crisis, despite a vaccine or cure.
This year’s theme for World AIDS day is “Increasing Impact through Transparency, Accountability, and Partnerships”. According to US Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, “This theme reflects the United States government’s longstanding leadership in addressing HIV/AIDS both at home and abroad and how we are increasing our impact to move epidemics from crisis toward control. It also highlights the historic opportunity we have to accelerate progress toward ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a public health threat in the United States and around the world. Finally, it emphasizes the critical role of transparency, accountability, and partnerships in reaching our collective goals.” Here in the City of Seattle, the Human Service Department (HSD) in collaboration with King County and other partners stand in alignment with the goals of this year’s theme in the local work done in the community.
HSD invests over $12 million annually to Public Health in Seattle & King County, to improve our communities, eliminate health inequities and maximize the lifespan of all residents. Public Health-Seattle & King County allocates resources and establishes partnerships with local agencies to support programming and services in the areas of HIV prevention and education, HIV non-medical Case Management, and the Robert Clewis needle exchange program.
Dollars invested in HIV prevention and education are allocated to programs that enhance HIV case-finding and link Seattle residents to treatment. It also supports innovative prevention approaches such as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)—HIV prevention medication for those who have not contracted HIV but could be at risk. These programs support individuals in the community that are living with HIV or “at-risk” for infection. In 2010, the White House released the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which aimed to reduce HIV incidence by 25% by 105, and increase the proportion of newly-diagnosed patients linked to clinical care within three months of the diagnosis by 85%. These national goals still stand today, and influence the prevention and education strategies of Public Health Seattle & King County.
In 2016, through Public Health Seattle & King County nearly 2,000 Rapid HIV tests were administered, over 3,000 HIV tests were administered to men who are sexually active with other men, and 120 men who are sexually active with other men started Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis.
Investments in non-medical case management assist lower-income residents living with HIV/AIDS gain and retain access to medical and oral health services and other needed supports. Services also extend to individuals and families impacted by HIV/AIDS who are living homeless. Service providers for non-medical case management include:
• Bailey-Boushay House,
• Public Health-Seattle & King County-Jail Health Services, Release Planning Program, and
• YWCA—BABES Network.
In 2016, over 7,000 unduplicated clients received non-medial case management services.
Since 1991, 17 major reviews and assessments of needle exchange programs have been conducted by experts, concluding that needle exchange programs reduce the spread of HIV and other dangerous diseases without encouraging or increasing drug use. Here in Seattle, HSD invests dollars in the Robert Clewis Center Needle Exchange Program, who focus on serving individuals who are at risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV through sharing and re-using contaminated injection equipment. In 2016 there were 27,000 needle exchange encounters with 3 million syringes exchanged.
Transparency, accountability and partnerships are foundational in how HSD operationalizes its mission to connect people with resources and solutions during times of need, so we can all live, learn, work, and take part in strong, healthy communities. Today, HSD and its partners join the global community in recognizing World AIDS Day and remain committed to serving those in our community living with HIV/AIDS while working toward preventative solutions.