The number of new HIV cases in the U.S. remained stable between 2006 and 2009 with roughly 50,000 new infections each year, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released today. The steady rate in overall incidence, however, masks the glaring health disparities that persist with the epidemic, according to the researchers. The data, published online today in the journal PLoS ONE, show men who have sex with men accounted for 61 percent of all new infections in 2009. The rates among blacks are eight times as much as whites overall.
Citing concerns for this troubling trend, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, said there is much work ahead to stem the tide. He said the CDC is working to refocus the national attention on effective prevention programs in communities most affected by the epidemic.
“We’re overhauling how we give out money to states and localities,” said Frieden in a tele-briefing with reporters today.
The CDC is placing heightened emphasis on availing earlier testing programs and prevention tools, and reducing barriers to care for the most at-risk populations. Yet, risky health behaviors do not fully account for the continued increase in the spread of disease among young gay African American men whose infection rate rose 48 percent during the time of the study.
“Instead we think there are more complex factors at work,” said Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention at CDC, citing structural limits such as a lack of access to care and a stigma around the disease and getting tested for it. One in five Americans does not know they are infected.
“If you don’t know you’re positive, you can’t get treated,” said Frieden.
Last summer, the White House issued the first-ever National HIV/AIDS Strategy to equip health authorities with the needed guidance to help prevent and reduce the threat of the disease. APHA hailed the comprehensive plan as “a lifesaving public health intervention that lays the foundation for improving our response and better coordinating efforts at the federal, state and local levels.”
Later this month, CDC will host its 2011 National HIV Prevention Conference.