Only 3 out of 10 Americans infected with HIV have the virus in check – furthermore, around two thirds of cases where HIV levels are out of control occur in people who have been diagnosed with the virus but are no longer in care.
These are some of the key points the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) make in their latest Vital Signs Report, which analyzes HIV data for 2011.
There are more than 1.2 million people living with HIV in the US, and with new infections arising at a rate of around 50,000 a year, the virus continues to pose a threat to public health and well-being.
Against this background, the CDC say the findings show more must be done to ensure wider testing of HIV and that positively diagnosed people stay in care, receive the treatment they need and the information and tools to help them prevent spreading the virus to others.
Following a prescribed antiretroviral medication regime consistently can keep HIV controlled at very low levels, allowing infected people to lead longer, healthier lives. It also keeps the risk of transmission low.
Research shows that treatment can reduce sexual transmission of HIV by as much as 96%, and US guidelines recommend treatment for all people diagnosed with HIV, regardless of their viral load.
CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden says the key to controlling America’s HIV epidemic is helping people with HIV access and stay in care and treatment so they can suppress the virus, live longer and help protect others.
“For people living with HIV, it’s not just about knowing you’re infected,” he urges, “it’s also about going to the doctor for medical care. And for health care facilities, it’s not just about the patients in your care – it’s every person diagnosed, and every person whose diagnosis has not yet been made.”
The report also shows that younger people are significantly less likely than older people to have their virus levels under control. The researchers suggest this is because under half (49%) of 18-24-year-olds with HIV have been diagnosed, highlighting the need for more testing in this group.
The CDC say closing that gap could have a big effect on controlling HIV.
The researchers found viral suppression did not differ significantly by race, ethnicity, sex or risk of infection.
Meanwhile, Medical News Today recently learned about an international study led by the University of Kentucky that found an HIV drug may also treat macular degeneration, a major cause of vision loss among the elderly. The drug targets an inflammasome – a type of complex protein that plays a key role in innate immunity.