WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) -- Surprisingly, in the battle against HIV/AIDS, a major issue is not getting patients to begin treatment, but rather getting them to stay in treatment. The medication can be ravaging to their bodies, and it is often only one of many challenges these patients face. That is why the MAC AIDS Fund launched the "Care for Life Initiative."
Nancy Mahon, the Global Executive Director of the MAC AIDS Fund, said that one out of every two people in the United States taking HIV medication stops taking medication for one reason or another. This is problematic because without medication, these patients can get sicker, and they can transmit the virus to others.
The "Care for Life Initiative" aims to keep people on their medication. One way they do this is through the text for care proposal. This program involves sending text messages to patients' phones, reminding them about upcoming doctor's appointments or when to take their medication. MAC is working on this program with the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius spoke about the initiative in her speech at the opening session of the XIX International AIDS Conference in D.C.
In addition to the text for care proposal, there are several other programs that will be organized on a local level. These range from retention and care through providing housing and food, to working to find out why people don't stay with health care and taking steps to change that.
Mahon is pleased with their partnership because "the Department of Health and Human Services has reach that a private donor doesn't have." In addition, Mahon says, "some of the programs in Africa are working better than the programs in the United States, so what we're doing is taking the lessons from all of, honestly, the U.S. Funded programs in Africa, and bringing those lessons home."
There are several ways to get involved with the "Care for Life Initiative." Mahon says the first thing to do is get tested. Testing is recommended once a year for everyone, but once every three months for individuals in high risk groups such as IV drug users or gay and bisexual men. After getting tested, there are volunteer opportunities within the program. Mahon urges anyone who tests positive to "connect with a provider that is supportive of you and helps you get into care and stay in care."
And if you're a make-up user, you can indulge in what Mahon calls "guilt-free shopping" by purchasing a Viva Glam Lipstick at a MAC store. All $14.50 of the purchase price goes directly to the MAC AIDS Fund.
The reasons why people don't stay on HIV treatment can vary. For many, there are other challenges, such as finding a place to sleep or eat, or taking care of their kids that take precedence over continuing medication.
The MAC AIDS Fund and the Department of Health and Human Services are working to help AIDS patients overcome these challenges so they can have access to care for life.
Mahon is also the Chair of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) and the Senior Vice President of MAC Cosmetics.