HIV

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

The number of young physicians applying to infectious disease fellowships has been steadily declining over the last five years. Experts in Texas and across the country are worried about this looming shortage of HIV providers and brainstorming ways to turn this trend around.

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Part of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law is a provision that protects people with pre-existing conditions from being denied insurance coverage, including people who are HIV positive.

Still, the Affordable Care Act hasn’t solved everything for HIV patients.

CDC

More people are living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus in Travis County.

Between 2006 and 2012, the number of people with HIV has increased 41 percent -- to 5,084 people. During those years, the overall population of Travis County increased only by about 17 percent.

Dr. Phillip Huang, Medical Director of Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services, says much of the increase is because of life-sustaining HIV drugs.

Courtesy of AIDSVu

A new interactive map illustrates cases of HIV and possible treatment and testing centers. The map was compiled by the non-profit AIDSVu, using city, county and federal data.  

National HIV Testing Day was this week, providing a chance to increase awareness about testing and treatment efforts among at-risk populations and inspire who may be living with the disease to seek help in managing it. 

flickr.com/andymccarthyuk

The Austin Area Comprehensive HIV Planning Council is looking for volunteers.

Federal legislation for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program requires “that we have a board with committee members that reflect the make up of the community,” says the council’s John Waller. Recruiting new members is a normal part of the council’s charge, but Waller says with a new chair and other members recently having completed their terms, the council is looking for new members.

The council needs different types of volunteers: HIV positive Austin residents that use programs funded by Ryan White grants; local social and medical service providers; and community leaders.

Trinn Suwannapha, via flickr.com/worldbank

Saturday is World AIDS Day. Here in Austin, the Department of Health and Human Services in holding a day long AIDS conference. This year’s focus is on how HIV is affecting young people in Travis County, among whom HIV infection is increasing.

Worldwide, deaths from AIDS are down since 2005. Rates of HIV infection are also falling. But HIV is on the rise among young people, including those in Travis County.

“In the last four or five years, we’ve seen a very sharp increase in the number of cases of HIV infection in among youth,” said Joe Barnes with Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services. “We define that as between 13 and 24.”

Amanda Mills, Centers for Disease Control

The San Antonio-based Texas Biomedical Research Institute has applied for a patent for a new genetically engineered HIV vaccine. This new vaccine would provide lifelong protection from the disease with a single dose.

The vaccine is designed to target the cells that line the body’s surface structures. which are the point of entry into the body in approximately 90 percent of HIV cases. Once HIV enters the body through these cells, it quickly spreads to the lymph nodes and other organs, where it replicates throughout the body. The new vaccine would stimulate the body’s outer layers and cells to generate cells that produce antibodies to HIV. 

flickr.com/asaustin

A financial shot in the arm is coming for people living with AIDS in Austin. As much as $5 million in federal funding is on the way, spread out over five years. But the federal funding comes as local AIDS assistance groups wrangle with funding cuts of their own. 

The announcement came at a city council meeting yesterday. The grant funds come from federal awards called Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, funds. For Austin that means about $1 million each year for two Austin non-profits, AIDS Services of Austin and Project Transitions. The money is intended to help people with HIV and AIDS with housing need – short-term rent and mortgage assistance, help with utilities and other related expenses. 

According to Josh Allen, executive director of Project Transitions, housing is an area of incredible need for Austin. “As quickly as we can move someone into housing, there are two other folks on the waiting list.”

This grant money comes at a time when Project Transitions is struggling to fill a $45,000 gap left by reduced funding from the United Way. In July, the United Way for Greater Austin eliminated $1.2 million in grants to local nonprofits. “We’re seeing it across the board generally with fund raising efforts,” says Allen. “Specifically, with grants and foundations. It’s just a much more competitive environment.”