News Release, Maryland Department of Health

tate and local health officers review strategies to reduce new HIV cases

Baltimore, MD —Maryland health officials today were joined by Adm. Brett P. Giroir, M.D., Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Robert R. Redfield, M.D., Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for an overview of the new national initiative, Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America.

Maryland Department of Health (MDH) Secretary Robert R. Neall and Deputy Secretary of Public Health Services Frances B. Phillips, along with local health officials, shared updates on decreasing new HIV cases in Maryland. In 2017, Maryland had fewer new HIV diagnoses than any time since 1986.

“So much progress has been made in recognizing and controlling infectious diseases, thanks in huge part to HHS’s strong, science-based leadership and assistance,” said Neall. “The progress in the nation, and in Maryland, regarding HIV/AIDS is a prime example. In the 1980s, AIDS was regarded as a nearly universally fatal disease. Stigma and fear were pervasive. Now, we have the knowledge and means to provide compassionate and effective treatment to people with HIV and to reduce the number of new infections.”

“Our bold initiative to end the HIV epidemic in America will focus on impacted communities to ensure they have the technical expertise, support, personnel and prevention and treatment resources they need,” said Giroir. “This must be a ‘whole of society’ initiative. It is crucial to work with state and local officials, faith-based partners and others to establish public-private collaborations.”

“We have an unprecedented, once-in-a-generation opportunity to end the HIV epidemic in Maryland and across the U.S.,” said Redfield. “To accomplish this, CDC will accelerate work with state and local health departments, and most importantly the community. We will listen to Marylanders living with HIV and learn from their experiences so we reach those in greatest need. This truly is an initiative tailored to the community, by the community, and for the community.”  

In addition to Giroir’s and Redfield’s presentations about the national initiative, Phillips described the HIV/AIDS situation in Maryland and local health officers discussed the epidemic in their home counties. The presentations, held at MDH headquarters on West Preston Street in Baltimore, were followed by a roundtable discussion regarding strategies to eliminate new cases.

“We have employed a variety of approaches in Maryland to attack this epidemic and reduce the number of new cases — through state and local planning partnerships, along with support for prevention, treatment and other care services,” said Phillips. “Our declining case counts show that we are moving in the right direction, and this extra support from the CDC will boost our efforts to end the epidemic.”

Despite progress, Maryland still ranks 5th in the nation in terms of HIV diagnosis rates. At the end of 2017, there were more than 31,000 Marylanders diagnosed with HIV. About three-fourths of those diagnosed are receiving medical care averaging $23,000 per person each year, resulting in about $550 million annually in medical costs. And these figures do not include other economic costs or address the tremendous burden on individuals, families and communities.    

Baltimore City Acting Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa, M.D., Montgomery County Health Officer Travis Gayles, M.D., and Prince George’s County Acting Health Officer Ernest Carter, M.D., reported on the status of HIV/AIDS in their jurisdictions, still considered “hot spots” for new cases. The national initiative will focus on these three areas in Maryland.

The HHS plan will accelerate progress in eliminating new HIV infections by directing new funds to communities most impacted. The multi-year program will target 48 counties, Washington, D.C. and San Juan, Puerto Rico, as well as seven states with substantial rural HIV burden, providing them with additional expertise, technology and needed resources.

Data from across the United States was analyzed to identify counties with the highest number of new HIV diagnoses, states with the heaviest rural HIV burden and the territorial area most impacted by the epidemic. These areas have accounted for more than 50 percent of new HIV diagnoses in recent years.

For more information about Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America, go towww.HIV.gov/ending-hiv-epidemic.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...