Could Massachusetts stop — not just reduce but actually stop — the spread of HIV and new cases of AIDS?
Some activists say that with a little more money and a targeted plan, the end of AIDS is within reach here.
“It’s possible for us to end the AIDS epidemic in Massachusetts,” said Rebecca Haag, president and CEO of the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts. “This came on our watch and I believe we should put an end to it.”
You may be shaking your head and asking, “Really?”
Well, Haag says, think about this figure: 657. That’s the total number of new HIV cases reported to the state Department of Public Health in 2011. Compare that with the many hundreds of Massachusetts residents who were dying of AIDS every year from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s.
In 1994, the worst year, 1,156 died. Overall, nearly 13,000 Massachusetts residents died of the disease, and more than 18,000 are now living with it.
But recent years have seen major progress.
“In Massachusetts, we have been successful in dramatically reducing new incidence of HIV infection and are approaching levels that start to look like an unsustainable epidemic, over the long term,” said Kevin Cranston, who directs the Bureau of Infectious Disease at the Department of Public Health.
When might there be so few new cases that HIV dies out? Cranston says it’s hard to predict, in part because Massachusetts is down to the hardest-to-reach cases. Most of them are young gay men in poor city neighborhoods.
Like Frank. When his dad found out he was gay, he was kicked out of the house. Frank, who’s 21, turned to prostitution. Continue reading