The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) chose Valentine’s Day to announce an 18% fall in the incidence of HIV infection in the US between 2008 and 2014 – from an estimated 45,700 to 37,600 per year.
It says the fall is largely down to HIV positive people being on medication and becoming undetectable, and a rise in HIV positive high-risk groups taking PrEP medication to prevent acquiring the virus (which was approved for use in 2012).
It said there had been a drop in injecting drug users contracting the virus, and a 36% drop in heterosexual people becoming infected.
However, although the overall infection rate has come down, gay and bisexual men remain the most at risk group. They accounted for 67% of new infections in 2014. Certain groups within this community remain at particular risk.
- Annual infections between gay men aged 25-34 increased by 35% from 7,200 to 9,700.
- Infections between Latino gay and bisexual males increased by 20% (from 6,100 to 7,300)
- Infection rates among black gay and bisexual men remained stable at around 10,100 per year.
- On the other hand, infection rates between gay and bi men aged 35-44 dropped by 25% and by 18% for men under 24.
- Southern states bear the greatest burden of HIV, accounting for 50% of new infections in 2014.
‘Disparities among men who have sex with men [MSM] need to be addressed’
The results were presented by CDC’s Sonia Singh.
‘Disparities among MSM need to be addressed to reduce incidence,’ she said. ‘Black MSM continue to have the highest incidence and incidence is increasing among Hispanic and Latinos as well as 25 to 34 year olds.
‘Tailoring testing, prevention and treatment to these risk groups is needed to reduce HIV transmission.’
Health advocates have welcomed the fall in infection but agree that progress must be accelerated.
Writing for Huffington Post, Profession David Holtgrave of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said, ‘The health disparities, especially for gay and bisexual men of color and gay and bisexual men in young adulthood, are clearly unacceptable and must be addressed with culturally relevant, evidence-based, comprehensive wellness services that address HIV and health in a holistic manner.
‘The same is true for the disparities seen in the Southern U.S.; this unequal geographic impact of the epidemic, which is mirrored by the burden of other diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, has been known for far too long for such disparities to continue to exist.’