Samaritan Ministry

Annual HIV Infections Decline Substantially in the U.S.*

Overall, annual HIV infections declined 18 percent from 2008 to 2014, from an estimated 45,700 to 37,600. Declines were seen in a number of populations and geographic areas: incidence fell sharply among heterosexuals (36%) and people who inject drugs (56%), and several states and Washington, D.C. made substantial, statistically significant, progress in decreasing annual HIV infections. The declines are due in part to progress in diagnosing infections among people living with HIV and ensuring they have access to early, ongoing treatment.

Yet the data also show that tough challenges remain, particularly for communities in the South and among gay and bisexual men.

While Southern states represented 37 percent of the U.S. population in 2014, they accounted for 50 percent of new HIV infections. Annual infections remained stable among men who have sex with men (MSM), who accounted for 70 percent of new infections in 2014, though progress is mixed. Encouraging declines were seen among young MSM aged 13-24 and white MSM (18% in both groups), but increases occurred among MSM aged 25-34 (35%) and Hispanic/Latino MSM (20%). Annual HIV infections were estimated to be stable among black MSM, an important sign of progress in comparison to the increases that were previously reported for earlier time periods.

Read the full statement at:

*Reported at CROI 2/14/17


FAITH Coalition Recognized Week of Prayer

Knoxville’s FAITH Coalition put together an awesome Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS. There were several events during the first week of March.
The week began with an Evening of Prayer for the Healing of HIV/AIDS at the Wesley Foundation. The musical offerings by students and clergy were phenomenal and the prayers were so moving.
Then we had a heart-to-heart talk about the whys and wherefores of HIV in the Black Community with Patrick Lee from Gilead Sciences over a delicious catered dinner at Clinton Chapel AME Zion Church.
AKA Sorority pulled out all the stops Friday at the Crowne Plaza with a lovely reception recognizing their honorary sister Rev. Dr. Pernessa Seele. Rev. Seele reminded the group to listen when God calls, as she did when she started Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS. Then she surprised us all by singing There is a Balm in Gilead!
The week concluded with the prayer breakfast at Community Evangelistic Church. Rev. Dr. Pernessa Seele spoke to a sold out crowd on The Church and HIV: Is There a Balm in Gilead? She outlined the terrible toll that HIV is taking on our community, and challenged us to quit wandering in the wilderness of HIV infection. She said it is time to start leading people to the promised land. We need to put aside our discomfort and talk honestly about sex. We need to advocate for programs that work, even if they are controversial. The morning also included a thought provoking skit by WordPlayers, some delicious breakfast food and free HIV testing.

Our Testing Team is pictured below: (from the left) Judy Roitman, Knox County Health Department; Wayne Smith, Samaritan Ministry; and Melodie Daniels, Helen Ross McNabb Center.

44-Member AIDS Coalition Issues Statement of HIV Risk When Undetectable*

As the nation’s largest and longest-running coalition of community-based HIV/AIDS groups, AIDS United PPC includes 44 members, such as AIDS Alabama, Housing Works, Los Angeles LGBT Center, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, the Latino Commission on AIDS, the National Black Justice Coalition, Project Inform and the Harm Reduction Coalition.
Dated March 6, 2017, the AIDS United PPC statement reads as follows:
Substantial evidence strongly demonstrates that a person living with HIV who has a sustained, undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit HIV to another person. Continued analysis of large-scale clinical trials has shown zero cases of HIV sexual transmission. This expands on prior data that the risk of HIV transmission from a person living with HIV who is on anti-retroviral therapy and has achieved an undetectable viral load (viral suppression) in their blood for at least 6 months is negligible to non-existent.
Too many people living with HIV are not getting the message of this benefit of treatment and sustained viral suppression from their clinical providers or the HIV education and advocacy community. Understanding that maintaining viral suppression through successful anti-retroviral therapy not only maintains health but also prevents transmission can encourage people living with HIV to initiate and adhere to treatment regimens and may help reduce HIV-related stigma. We acknowledge, however, that social and structural barriers exist that prevent some people living with HIV from achieving viral suppression.
Outdated HIV criminalization laws and policies in the U.S. do not reflect the current science related to HIV transmission risks. Scientific evidence about the reality of transmission risk based in this data about viral suppression and transmission risk has already had an impact on HIV criminalization statutes and prosecutions in Europe.
Therefore, AIDS United recommends:

  • That providers and educators consistently share the message that new evidence demonstrates that a person living with HIV who has a sustained, undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit HIV to another person.
  • That the Department of Health and Human Services Anti-retroviral Guidelines Committee examine this issue further and consider updating Guidelines language.
  • That HIV criminal laws and policies in the United States be modernized to reflect the science related to viral suppression and HIV transmission risk.

* POZ News Update 3/14/17 []

“Berlin Patient” Timothy Brown Celebrates 10 Years of Being Cured of HIV

Timothy Ray Brown—formerly known as the “Berlin Patient”—has marked a decade since he was cured of HIV. Brown, who now lives in San Francisco, celebrated the anniversary with a cake during a community workshop in Seattle, site of the 2017 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), reports The Bay Area Reporter.

While living in Berlin in 2006, Brown, who was HIV positive and on antiretrovirals at the time, developed leukemia. To combat the blood disease, Brown underwent chemotherapy that killed off his immune cells. In rebuilding Brown’s immune system, his doctor used cells with a CCR5-delta-32 mutation that made them resistant to HIV. After a decade of various tests, Brown remains free of HIV.

“In a way it seems like yesterday, but in a way it feels like a long time ago that I had to take medications every day,” Brown told The Bay Area Reporter. “That is the best part of my cure—not needing to take daily medication and not needing to depend constantly on my doctors for my survival.”

So why is he now taking daily HIV meds again? To prevent acquiring HIV. Because his immune cells are still susceptible to the less common strains of HIV that use the CXCR4 receptors to infect cells, Brown has started taking Truvada as PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis.

“Recovery has taken too long, but I feel great and I am grateful for everything,” Brown told the newspaper. “I still hang on to the hope that everyone living with HIV will be cured in my lifetime.”

Wayne and Mr. Brown at the 2015 United States Conference on AIDS in Washington D.C.


Samaritan Ministry and OraSure Test 140 at Local RAM Clinic in Knoxville

Samaritan Ministry teamed up with OraSure Technologies to provide HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV) testing at a Remote Area Medical Clinic in Knoxville, Tennessee on a Saturday and Sunday in February. This testing effort is a collaboration between RAM, Samaritan Ministry, Helen Ross McNabb Center, and OraSure Technologies. OraSure produces the CLIA waived rapid tests for HIV and Hepatitis C antibodies, and is our partner in all of our community testing efforts.

Many people live in fear of sickness and injury because they have little or no access to basic medical care. RAM responds to this need by providing free dental, vision, and medical care to isolated, impoverished, or underserved communities. We are grateful to be able to be a part of this local clinic in Knoxville and are hoping to work toward a long-term partnership with Remote Area Medical. Learn more about this great organization at

We tested about 14% of the 1000 that were served at the clinic over the two days; 68 were tested for HCV (several positive results) and 74 were tested for HIV (zero positive results). This is a great educational opportunity for all of those who step forward to be tested.