Oft in the front lines of the fight against HIV/AIDS, San Francisco city officials have announced that they would dedicate nearly $2 million to support efforts to become the first city in the country to be rid of all HIV and AIDS infections.
The initiative, Getting to Zero, started last year. It focuses on expanding access to the ground breaking drug regimen PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), a treatment which has shown a 90 percent success rate in the prevention of transmissions.
San Francisco is lauded has having one of the best HIV/AIDS treatment programs in the world. It is noted for it starting drug regimens and services the same day a person is diagnosed with the infection, rather than scheduling a follow appointment some days later. Additionally, the program works tirelessly to ensure that patients stick with the program.
“We want to have no new infections, we want to have no preventable deaths and we certainly want to have no stigma,” said Lee. “We can, in our lifetime, end this epidemic for everyone.”
Thanks to ceaseless efforts, the past two decades have seen a dramatic decline in new infections. The peak of the epidemic was in 1992 with 2332 new cases coming forward that year. In 2014, the number of new cases was 302.
“We’ve made a lot of progress in San Francisco, but it’s not over,” said Dr. Diane Havlir, chief of the UCSF Division of HIV/AIDS at San Francisco General Hospital.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said the city will donate $1.2 million to assist the program target people who are hardest to reach, including drug users and transgender people. The MAC AIDS Fund, a charity run by the cosmetics company, contributed an additional $500,000.
This most recent allocation of funds comes on top of almost $54 million San Francisco has already given to the prevention and care for residents with HIV or AIDS. The funds not only help finance research and development but also pay the salaries of staff members who actively seek out those who are reluctant to come forward and get help themselves.
“What we say at MAC is, if you can sell a lipstick, you can save a life,” said Karen Buglisi, global brand president for MAC. “We want to save a lot of lives.”