An End to HIV is in Sight – A Moment Many Thought Impossible 

Planning for 2024
December 1, 2023

Ending the HIV epidemic in the United States is finally within our reach, but it will require all sectors of society, including employers, working together to ensure that the most powerful HIV prevention and treatment tools in history reach those who need them the most. – Health Action Alliance

Mercer has joined a coalition of companies to help achieve what was once thought impossible – the end of the HIV epidemic in the US by 2030. Scientific advancements over the past four decades have made it possible to dramatically reduce new cases of HIV, which currently number nearly 35,000 per year in the United States. A key obstacle is misinformation, discrimination, and stigma around HIV. When we support people affected by HIV, we make it easier for everyone to lead healthy lives.

Current HIV prevention and treatment tools mean it’s easier than ever for people to stay healthy and prevent the spread of the virus

  • Rapid, non-intrusive HIV tests can be done without needles, and results are available within 20 minutes or less.
  • The use of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) can prevent people without HIV from contracting the disease. It’s available as a daily pill or a shot taken every eight weeks.
  • A range of new antiretroviral treatments (ARTs) make it possible for people with HIV to live long, healthy lives. In addition to maintaining health, people who take their ARTs as prescribed and who achieve and then maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner.

At the height of the HIV epidemic, benefit managers frequently saw HIV on the high-cost claim list and, sadly, in life insurance claims. Fast forward to today when, because of all the great work in prevention and treatment, a typical medical claims report will include very few cases of HIV. 

Five ways to address HIV in the workplace

On the recent National Employers Summit to End HIV, a panel of activists, health experts, and employers discussed the pivotal role employers can play in ending HIV.  Five essential ways to address HIV in the workplace are recapped below, but we hope you’ll listen to the entire session for more in-depth information – and for inspiration.  

Comprehensive medical coverage. All employees rely on their employer to provide comprehensive medical coverage. It's critically important in the effort to end HIV, specifically as it relates to screening, preventive care and treatment. The CDC recommends that everyone get tested. Investing in preventive care is a lot less expensive than treating the condition. Estimates suggest that lifetime medical costs for HIV range from over $300,000 to nearly $500,000. So for employers, promoting HIV prevention and treatment adherence is not only the right thing to do, it’s good for business.

Flexible time off. It’s important to provide employees with time off for medical appointments to support the need for ongoing lab work and doctor appointments. Requesting and using leave should be easy and shouldn’t require the employee to reveal their HIV diagnosis to their manager or co-workers.

Supportive and inclusive environment. Educating employees about HIV will help reduce stigma and discrimination in the workplace. Given the disproportionate impact of HIV on Black, Latino, and LGBTQ+ communities, taking action on HIV can strengthen a company’s commitments to equity by investing in historically under-resourced communities.

HIV policy. Employers can help employees feel protected and fight stigma by strengthening HIV-related workplace nondiscrimination policies. The Health Action Alliance has shared a sample workplace policy on HIV to help you get started.

Community collaboration. Explore opportunities to collaborate with local public health departments, community organizations or other private sector partners to fill gaps in HIV service delivery. Help employees who are not covered by your insurance plan – such as contract or part-time workers – find affordable HIV testing, prevention and treatment.

Employers can find a suite of free resources on the Health Action Alliance website. We hope you will join Mercer and the community of companies committed to ending the HIV epidemic. Together, we’ll learn, innovate and collaborate to achieve the greatest impact.  Learn more at healthaction.org/endhiv

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