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WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — After it was first identified as the cause of AIDS in 1983, being diagnosed with an HIV infection was a literal death sentence, and it remains that way for many people in poor countries who lack access to the life-saving medications that have transformed HIV from a sure ticket to death into a chronic illness.
(THE NEWS: D.C. health department creates new pharmacy network for HIV drug-assistance program. For the full story, click here.)
But the increasing availability of antiretroviral drugs also has resulted in an evolution of the care model for the disease that brings treatment down to the community pharmacy level, as indicated by the District of Columbia health department's decision last week.
Of course, HIV drugs still carry numerous side effects and require close interaction between the patient, the physician and the pharmacist. But the news out of the District of Columbia — not to mention Walgreens' decision to take part in a pilot program to have pharmacists administer HIV tests and the Food and Drug Administration's approval of a home HIV test — shows that HIV is one of those areas of specialty pharmacy where community pharmacies could have an advantage and be well-suited, both for treating people with the disease and prevention efforts like testing and outreach.