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Hope for treating AIDS — and diabetes

Regarding the July 22 front-page article “The story of AIDS now also about hope”:

As the article noted, “treatment as prevention” has become the new battle cry of those fighting AIDS. But our experience in Massachusetts has shown that “care is prevention” is likely to lead to greater success. Since 1999, Massachusetts has reduced new HIV infections by 54 percent, which will save the commonwealth more than $2 billion in health-care costs. This has been accomplished with aggressive outreach and behavioral interventions such as needle exchange.

But the key has been getting people with HIV into care and treatment. Since 2001, an HIV diagnosis has meant coverage under the state’s Medicaid plan, ensuring early access to treatment for thousands of low-income individuals. Since 2006, Massachusetts has had near-universal health insurance for every resident, greatly improving access to care. And the state government has invested in a strong public-health infrastructure.

To end the epidemic, we need to marry treatment advances with care and support for those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.

Rebecca Haag, Boston

The writer is the president and chief executive of the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts.

Because of the AIDS conference taking place in Washington this week, we’re hearing a lot about the toll that AIDS takes on individuals and communities. AIDS is a terrible disease, but I can’t help but compare the impact of AIDS in the United States with that of the equally debilitating diabetes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes affects approximately 25.8 million people in this country, while approximately 1.2 million live with AIDS. The number of newly acquired AIDS infections has stabilized at an estimated 50,000 per year, while the number of new cases of diabetes is increasing annually. For example, from 2007 to 2010, the number of new cases rose by approximately 1 million each year.

The direct medical costs of treating diabetes were estimated at $116 billion in 2007, with total costs estimated at $174 billion. Yet the amount of federal research funding provided through the National Institutes of Health in 2011 for diabetes was less than $1.1 billion. For AIDS, it was a little more than $3 billion.

Are we allocating our limited tax dollars wisely? Or are we being influenced by superior advocacy in the AIDS community to attack the lesser of two evils?

N.E. Summers, Potomac

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