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Most New HIV Infections Linked to People Not in Care

Most people with new HIV infections in this county don’t know their status or are aware they’re infected but aren’t being treated.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 8 in 10 new HIV infections can be traced to people not in HIV care. The data, published earlier this year as a Vital Signs study, found people who don’t know their HIV status account for 38 percent of new transmissions, while nearly 43 percent of new infections can be traced to people who know their status but aren’t receiving HIV care.

“Today, we have the tools to end the HIV epidemic,” said Jonathan Mermin, M.D., director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention. “But a tool is only useful if it’s in someone’s hands. This is why it’s vital to bring testing and treatment to everyone with HIV—and to empower them to take control of their lives and change the course of the epidemic.”

The report estimated that 4 percent of new HIV infections came from people who had acute infections but were unaware of their HIV status. More than 33 percent were attributed to people with non-acute HIV infections who were unaware of their status. About 43 percent were connected to people who knew their status but weren’t receiving treatment. People receiving HIV care but not virally suppressed accounted for the remaining 20 percent of new HIV infections.

The best news from the report: No new transmissions were linked to HIV patients taking antiretroviral therapy and who were virally suppressed.

The highest transmission rates were among men who have sex with men, CDC researchers said, followed by men who have sex with men and use injection drugs, men who inject drugs, heterosexual men, women IV drug users and heterosexual women. The highest HIV transmission rates overall were among people ages 13 to 24.

According to the report, nationwide there was a decline in the HIV transmission rate between 2010 and 2016, which corresponded with an increase in HIV viral suppression.

“Community efforts to increase public awareness of the benefits of viral suppression might help decrease stigma and make staying in care easier,” researchers said in a news release.


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