Many Americans with HIV go untreated: study
Nearly three quarters of Americans with HIV do not have their infection under control, raising the risk of death from AIDS and transmission to others, said a US study on Tuesday.
One in five people with human immunodeficiency virus are unaware that they have the disease, added the report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released ahead of World AIDS Day on December 1.
Among people who know their HIV status is positive, only about half (51%) get ongoing medical treatment, said the CDC’s Vital Signs report.
Of those, 36 percent take antiretroviral therapy and 28 percent have a low amount of the virus in their body.
“The HIV crisis in America is far from over,” Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, told reporters.
“Today’s Vital Signs shows that closing the gaps in testing, care and treatment will all be essential to slowing or reversing the US HIV epidemic.”
There are about 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States, and just 28 percent have what the CDC defines as a viral load that is “suppressed,” or less than 200 copies of blood-borne virus per milliliter of blood.
Treatment with antiretroviral drugs has been shown to suppress levels of the virus in 77 percent of people who follow the regimen, and studies have shown it can cut the risk of transmission to a partner by 96 percent.
About 50,000 new cases of HIV arise in the United States each year, where 16,000 people die annually of AIDS.
While the figure of 28 percent suppression is higher than a recent study that found just 19 percent, the CDC cautioned that more needs to be done to make sure people are tested and treated.
CDC director Thomas Frieden said a new push by all levels of government could help.
“The bottom line is we have the tools to stop HIV from spreading in the individual patient and we have the tools to greatly reduce its spread in communities,” Frieden said.
“First is to increase the proportion of people who know their status. Knowledge is power,” he told reporters.
“Second, to make sure that people with HIV have every opportunity to remain in ongoing care after they’re diagnosed.”
Black men who have sex with men are a particularly high-risk group, with African-American gay males accounting for 22 percent of all new infections in the United States, according to CDC data.
Also, more than a third of young black homosexual men are infected with HIV, more than twice the level seen in white gay men. Surveys suggest a full 60 percent of black gay men living with HIV do not know they are HIV positive.
“We are very concerned about the very troubling statistic of black gay men in the US,” said Mermin.
Kevin Fenton, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and Tuberculosis Prevention, said high risk groups should get tested at least once year, or more.
“In fact, recent CDC data suggests that gay and bisexual men might even benefit from testing as often as every three to six months,” he told reporters.
“There are many reasons why individuals may not get tested for HIV. Some may not think they are at risk, others may want to avoid the stigma of HIV and testing and some may fear learning that they are HIV positive.