After witnessing the dramatic, deadly rise of HIV in the 1980s, the idea of ending the epidemic may have seemed impossible to many. However, through incredible advancements made over the past 40 years, including biomedical breakthroughs in how we prevent and treat the virus, the goal of ending the epidemic is indeed possible. And yet, progress toward lowering HIV incidence is stalling, with around 1.7 million new individuals acquiring HIV in 2019.
Furthermore, of the 38 million people who are currently living with HIV worldwide, about 7.1 million are unaware of their status and over 15 million are not considered virally suppressed, creating the environment that allows this epidemic to continue to spread.1
We must now answer a difficult question. As asked by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, “So why does this global pandemic continue to rage? It is not that we lack the medical advances and interventions to end the pandemic. It is that our proven tools have not been implemented adequately or uniformly.”
This is exactly the challenge that implementation science seeks to understand and address.
Notable examples of our pioneering implementation science program include:
- Improving access to care: A study partnership with the University of South Carolina is evaluating the benefits of ride-sharing services on improving access to care for people living with HIV. This study is a part of “Carolinas United to End HIV,” a cross-state collaboration between public health officials, clinical researchers, patients and patient advocacy groups in North Carolina and South Carolina to end the HIV epidemic.
- Improving the delivery of HIV treatment: The first-ever implementation research studies in HIV treatments, CUSTOMIZE and CARISEL, explored how to integrate a long-acting treatment option into US and European healthcare practices.
- Improving patient care: The PROgress study was designed to evaluate how the introduction of patient reported outcomes, or PROs, could improve communication between people living with HIV and their healthcare providers using a short pre-consultation tablet survey. Findings from the PROgress study showed that a short pre-visit, electronic tablet survey improved healthcare provider awareness and ability to address hidden patient needs, behaviors and issues, including sensitive topics like mental health.
Through our support for implementation science, we are committed to solving real-world challenges to successful HIV prevention and treatment. Developing innovative healthcare solutions, smarter policies and practices will make an HIV-free future possible for the next generation.