FINALIST: UNDETECTABLE AMERICANS
We know the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can have an aversion to “science-based” proclamations. And yet this year, undetectable Americans — those whose treatment for HIV has made the virus undetectable in blood tests for at least six months — finally made the government acknowledge what they’ve long known: A person with HIV cannot transmit the virus when they’re undetectable. Hundreds of other experts and HIV organizations had already signed a document called the “Undetectable Equals Untransmittable Consensus Statement” in 2016 that declared the very same thing. But the CDC took a little longer. The importance of acknowledging this breakthrough — one that was unimaginable and only dreamed of during the height of the crisis just a few decades ago — cannot be underestimated as we head into 2018 and the future beyond. Already the CDC estimates that of the 1.1 million HIV-positive Americans in 2014, 85 percent knew their status and 49 percent were undetectable.
FINALIST: PrEP USERS
The daily dosage of a pill taken to prevent contracting HIV, commonly called PrEP, is one incredibly important tool in the quest for an AIDS-free generation. And in 2017, adoption seemed to reach a cultural tipping point. No longer are men hiding the fact they’re on the pill, they’re out about it.
As of the start of 2017, Gilead Sciences estimated that 120,000 Americans were on Truvada as PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis. By mid-year, that number was 136,000, according to Poz magazine. These are huge increases compared to recent history. A survey of pharmacies had estimated that almost 80,000 people were on PrEP in 2015. The Truvada pill from Gilead Sciences only got the green light for use as PrEP in July 2012 (it was already used in combination with other drugs as a treatment for HIV-positive people). Immediately it became the target of those who shamed users, saying they’d misuse it to have endless unprotected sex and cause increases in sexually transmitted diseases — which doesn't appear to be the case. Some inaccurately claimed science couldn’t be trusted, that it wasn’t actually more effective than condoms in preventing transmission. Those were the days of stigma when only a few thousand prescriptions were documented, with just 3,250 reported prescriptions in 2013.
Now the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that gay and bisexual men who are sexually active take PrEP. And men are commonly noting on their dating-app profiles when they’re on PrEP. Being out about PrEP usage only means more men will take the pill in 2018 and beyond, and the virus is contracted by fewer and fewer people. Next it’s time for PrEP to break outside the older white men that statistics show are most likely to have access to the pill now and into minority populations at greatest risk.