New research in JAMA reports that, from 2002-2011, the annual HIV diagnosis rate decreased by more than 30%. The study is published as part of an HIV-themed issue launched to coincide with the International AIDS Conference.

Over the past decade, there has been increased emphasis on care and treatment of people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the US. Most notably, the use of antiretroviral therapy to increase survival and decrease transmission has had significant impact.

But measuring the scale of this impact accurately has not been possible until recently, when HIV diagnosis data became available for all US states. This has allowed the first analysis of long-term national HIV diagnosis trends.

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Between 2002 and 2011, the records show that 493,372 individuals were diagnosed with HIV in the US.

Researchers from the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, GA, analyzed data from the CDC’s National HIV Surveillance System.

Between 2002 and 2011, the records show that 493,372 individuals were diagnosed with HIV in the US.

The annual diagnosis rate in 2002 was 24.1 HIV cases per 100,000 people, but by 2011, this had dropped to 16.1 HIV cases per 100,000 – a fall of 33.2%.

The largest changes in diagnosis rate were in women, people aged 35-44 years of age, and people of multiple races. Decreases were also measured in the number of diagnoses relating to drug use or heterosexual sex.

There were no statistically significant changes in diagnosis rate for Asian, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander people.

Despite the decreases across nearly every demographic population, the JAMA article does note that there have been increases of HIV diagnoses in some men who have sex with men.

The largest increase of HIV diagnosis in the study – of 132.5% – was observed among males aged 13-24. There were also increases in men who have sex with men who are 45 and older.

“Among men who have sex with men,” the authors write, “unprotected risk behaviors in the presence of high prevalence and unsuppressed viral load may continue to drive HIV transmission. Disparities in rates of HIV among young men who have sex with men present prevention challenges and warrant expanded efforts.”

However, the researchers also acknowledge that trends in diagnoses are influenced by changes in testing patterns:

The HIV testing services were expanded during the analysis period and early outcomes of testing initiatives often indicate increases in diagnoses until some level of testing saturation occurs. Our study found overall decreases in annual diagnosis rates despite the implementation of testing initiatives during the period of analysis.”

Medical News Today also recently reported on a study published in The Lancet to coincide with the International AIDS Conference, which found that death rates in HIV-positive people with access to care and antiretroviral therapy have almost halved since 1999-2000.

Sadly, it was also reported on Friday, July 18th, that approximately 100 people traveling to the conference – including several world-leading HIV researchers – were killed in the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 that crashed in Eastern Ukraine on Thursday.