Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Officials Aim to Stop New Cases of Aids by 2020 Upmc, Ahn Pledge $1.5M to Campaign

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Officials Aim to Stop New Cases of Aids by 2020 Upmc, Ahn Pledge $1.5M to Campaign

Article excerpt

Troubled by persistent HIV infection rates, Allegheny County health officials unveiled Tuesday a five-year campaign to stop new AIDS cases in the area by 2020.

Rivals UPMC and Allegheny Health Network, the region's largest health systems, together pledged $1.5 million to the cross-agency effort called AIDS Free Pittsburgh. Organizers said the money should help buoy early detection, prevention and treatments, including a daily preventive pill targeted at people at high risk of HIV infection.

Untreated cases can develop into AIDS, the immune system condition marked Tuesday by the 28th annual World AIDS Day.

"I think it's easy for us to forget that HIV-AIDS is still an issue. We think we've conquered it. But the truth is, here in Allegheny County, we've had a relatively stable rate" of new HIV infections for six years, said Karen Hacker, the county health director.

State reports show 56 new AIDS cases last year in Allegheny County, bringing the countywide total to 1,422 patients by December 2014. Annual new cases totaled no more than 73 for the past six years, although mortality rates were not immediately clear Tuesday.

HIV rates are higher, with an estimated 2,758 county residents infected, according to the county health department. New HIV cases have hovered around 130 countywide each year since 2009, frustrating public health advocates who see infection rates dip in other parts of the country.

"We have made huge progress, but we are nowhere near where we need to be or where we would like to be. That is what the AIDS Free Pittsburgh initiative is about," said City Council President Bruce Kraus, who introduced the approach at a briefing outside council chambers.

The Downtown-based Jewish Healthcare Foundation will host the collaborative program, run with help from the county, the two health systems, the city HIV Commission and other groups. Although organizers have yet to detail all their plans, they have a broad vision that should reach medical clinics and the wider community, county health officials said. …

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