This World AIDS Day

By: Melissa Federman, Consultant

Across the state, as we reconcile the upcoming holiday season amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, public health leaders have been ambitiously and creatively preparing to recognize December 1, World AIDS Day. It’s a day when we remember those who have died of HIV/AIDS and recommit to ending an epidemic for which we have no vaccine or cure.

Some of the creative event solutions for Ohio include everything from virtual spoken word in Akron; to online AIDS Quilt exhibitions hosted by Cleveland and Columbus; to educational opportunities organized by Cleveland and Cincinnati research groups; and a virtual happy hour to launch the Ohio HIV Modernization Movement’s hashtag. Given that these events are all virtual – a device or phone is all that is needed to participate.

Where are we?

The Ohio Department of Health provided 2019 HIV prevalence and incidence data at the Combined Community Planning Group meeting this week.1 The quarterly meeting is an opportunity for stakeholders across the state to share data and best practices. The full report is available here.

At the close of 2019, 24,558 Ohioans were living with HIV.

At the close of 2019, 24,558 Ohioans were living with HIV. This is a rate of about 210/100,000 Ohioans (the U.S. rate is about 375/100,000). Half of Ohioans with HIV are living with HIV only – meaning the disease has not progressed to AIDS. Seventy-nine percent are men. More than 55 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS are age 50 and older. Forty-four percent of Ohioans living with HIV are Black and 44 percent are white and since the state has far fewer Black residents, these numbers represent a rate six times higher for Black Ohioans. For women living with HIV, the rate is 11 times higher for Black women compared to their white counterparts.

HIV Incidence, 2015-2019

YearNew HIV DiagnosisRate, per 100,000

In 2019, there were 973 new diagnoses of HIV in the state, resulting in a rate of about 8 new infections per 100,000 Ohioans (the rate is about 14/100,000 nationally). Among these new infections, 187 were diagnosed with HIV that progressed to AIDS within 12 months.2 Eighty percent of new infections are among men. Long-standing racial disparities persist: 48 percent of new infections are among Black men – resulting in a rate among Black men that is 7.2 times higher than white men.

Eighty percent of new infections are among men.

Community plans to End the HIV Epidemic in Ohio’s three most impacted counties are coming. 

Hundreds of community members in Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton counties have come together this year to talk about what they want to see in the state’s first Ending the HIV Epidemic plans – via interviews, surveys, focus groups and open stakeholder events. We now better understand the disease and how crucial treatment and an early start to treatment can be; this includes knowledge like U=U (undetectable equals untransmittable) and treatment like PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). Low-cost and well-known prevention methods like syringe exchange programs and condoms continue to be effective. Used together, these interventions can drastically reduce new HIV infections.

We now better understand the disease and how crucial treatment and an early start to treatment can be.

Ohio has already received funding for HIV planning and COVID-19-related needs among HIV providers, as well as specific funding to implement regional Ending the HIV Epidemic plans. From rapid response teams for newly-diagnosed individuals, to harm-reduction vending machines and patient-centered medical homes that include mental health and substance use treatment, there is renewed energy for community-led efforts to meet the goal of reducing new infections by 90 percent in the next decade while reducing racial disparities.

This World AIDS Day, Ohioans are recognizing what has come before us and sharing hope for what is coming.


1 The Combined Community Planning Group (CCPG) is a statewide group of HIV providers, people living with and at risk for exposure to HIV and advocates.

2 Considered an underestimate because prognosis data often come later.