CDC: ‘New hope’ in curbing HIV but fight far from over

However, the fight is “far from over” with the new infections each year as well as some 16,000 people a year people dying from AIDS, said Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention.

With 1.2 million people in the U.S. living with HIV, only about 28 percent have the disease under control — or a suppressed viral load that keeps them healthy and less likely to transmit it to others, Frieden said.

“Unfortunately, that means 850,000 Americans don’t have the virus controlled,” Frieden explained.

“While we have known that viral suppression can be achieved with proper HIV treatment and care, today’s new Vital Signs data highlight the challenges our country faces in keeping HIV-positive Americans in the care they need to control the virus,” Frieden added.

“By improving testing, linkage to care, and treatment services, we can help people living with HIV feel better and live longer, and can reduce the spread of HIV dramatically. This is not just an individual responsibility, but a responsibility for families, partners, communities and health care providers.”

One in five people in the U.S. — or about 250,000 — with HIV don’t know they are infected and risk transmitting it unknowingly to others. The CDC recommends people be tested for the disease once a year. For gay and bisexual men, who are at much higher risk and account for nearly half of the 1.2 million people living in the U.S. with HIV, the CDC recommends testing every three to six months, added Kevin Fenton, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP).

HIV testing is critical in combatting the disease, but people can only achieve the full benefits if they know they are HIV positive as soon as possible after they are infected and begin treatment, Fenton added.

The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, also released today, indicates that people who do receive treatment for HIV sooner after they are infected highly reduce their risks of being able to transmit the disease to others.

“We do have the tools of not only stopping the spreading of the disease in a person’s body but also of spreading the disease to others,” Frieden said.

Other information coming out of today’s CDC teleconference call:

• In January, the CDC will grant local and state health departments $359 million a year annually for five years with 75 percent of the funds to be specifically used for HIV testing, comprehensive care for people who are HIV positive, policy implementation and development and condom distribution. The other 25 percent will be spent on other proven prevention strategies. This is the first time in CDC history that it has made a requirement on how much money health departments must spend in certain areas.

“Every dollar is going where it is most needed in the new hope for stopping HIV and that people knowing their status will help us turn the tide,” Frieden added.

On Sept. 27 — Gay Men’s HIV Awareness Day — the CDC announced sizable grants to Atlanta organizations Positive Impact and AID Atlanta totaling $55 million over five years.


Top photo: Kevin Fenton, who is openly gay, is director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. (via CDC)