Michael Virata, MD, is an infectious disease specialist who has focused his career to caring for people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). He is the medical director of HIV clinical services at Yale New Haven Hospital-Saint Raphael Campus, and has worked with Yale New Haven Health and the state of Connecticut to end HIV infections—a goal he hopes to achieve in his lifetime.
Since Dr. Virata decided to specialize in HIV and AIDS in the early ‘90s, prospects for patients have changed tremendously. “It’s moved from being a terminal illness where we didn't have much in the way of treatment to really being in the chronic disease realm,” he says. “For someone young who gets infected right now, their life expectancy is close to being normal as long as they are getting care and follow the general recommendations.” Treatments can bring the virus down to undetectable levels, so people who have HIV can have sexual relationships without fear of transmission, he says. Ending the HIV epidemic is a national goal.
The next steps in eradicating the disease starts with the new “95-95-95” goal, which means making sure 95% of people are aware of their HIV status, having 95% of those with HIV on antiretroviral therapy, (ART), and bringing 95% of those on antiretroviral therapy to the point of being virologically suppressed to undetectable levels.
Dr. Virata says the patients with HIV that he cares for do extremely well. “I have patients that I have followed for many, many years. It's very rewarding to see them carrying on with their normal lives. I've had several patients start families,” he says. “I know their life stories. It's really very fulfilling work.”