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  • DHAPP Staff Host World AIDS Day Event at NHRC

    SAN DIEGO – Staff from the DoD HIV/AIDS Prevention Program (DHAPP), which is headquartered at the Naval Health Research Center (NHRC), hosted a World AIDS Day awareness walk Dec. 1.

    The purpose of the event was to educate and inform NHRC personnel about the work that’s being done by DHAPP staff and their implementing partners around the globe to combat HIV.

    “The purpose of World AIDS Day is to recognize, support, and care for all the people living with HIV globally as well as honor all of those we have lost as a result of this disease,” said Dr. Michael P. Grillo, DHAPP’s director for prevention and education and training as well as a retired Navy psychologist. “Our goal at DHAPP is getting the next generation to zero new HIV infections through the services we provide, and we wanted to use this opportunity to share our successes and challenges with our NHRC family.”

    During the event at NHRC, staff were invited to participate in a walk around the command, with stops along the way at stations that highlighted key aspects of HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment including global statistics about the disease, education about the work DHAPP does in terms of combination prevention including different methods for voluntary medical male circumcision in African nations, the importance of getting tested for HIV, the impact antiretroviral (ARV) therapy has had on reducing rates of mother-to-child HIV transmission, and how DHAPP collaborates with partner foreign militaries to accomplish their mission.

    “It was interesting to learn how very vast the program is and their wide focus on Africa,” said Claro Garcia, deputy director for administration at NHRC. “Learning more about DHAPP’s history and their background was very impressive—they’ve accomplished a lot over the past 10 years.”

    DHAPP works globally with foreign military personnel as the DoD implementing agency for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). During fiscal year 2015, DHAPP staff traveled to over 45 countries providing support and assistance to foreign militaries for the prevention, care, and treatment of HIV/AIDS. As of September 2015, accomplishments for the entire PEPFAR program include:

    • ​Globally, over 9.5 million men, women, and children are receiving life-saving antiretroviral (ARV) therapy
    • More than 14.7 million pregnant women were tested for HIV. Those who tested positive were offered ARV therapy, resulting in 95% of babies born to HIV-positive mothers being born HIV-negative
    • More than 8.9 million voluntary medical male circumcision procedures performed
    • Over 68.2 million people received HIV testing services, providing a gateway to prevention, care, and treatment

    According to Grillo, taking the opportunity to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS on World AIDS Day is important. “HIV, unlike other diseases, is not getting the attention that it still deserves, but the first thing we can do to help stop the spread of HIV is talk about it. Be sure we are talking to all of our family members and friends because awareness leads to action.”

    When it comes to preventing HIV infections and AIDS, action is vital. Actively taking preventive measures such as condom use and pre-exposure prophylaxis for those at high risk for acquiring HIV is key to stopping the spread of HIV. For those who are HIV-positive, taking ARV therapy decreases chances of transmitting HIV infection.

    “Most people diagnosed with HIV can live 50 or more years after their initial infection as long as they remain stable and take their medications regularly without missing doses,” said Grillo. “HIV affects one’s social life, family life, and reproductive life. Advances have been made in all these areas, but life becomes more complicated for people living with HIV. The most important thing we can do is keep each other safe through education and prevention. If you’re at risk, get tested. HIV is not a death sentence, but avoiding acquiring it is the best method.”

     As the DoD’s premier deployment health research center, NHRC’s cutting-edge research and development is used to optimize the operational health and readiness of the nation’s armed forces. In proximity to more than 95,000 active duty service members, world-class universities, and industry partners, NHRC sets the standard in joint ventures, innovation, and translational research.

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