From 2006 to 2009, by and large, HIV infections in the USA have remained consistent at about 50,000 new cases annually. However, according to a new report by the CDC, infection rates have increased alarmingly among young black MSM (men who have sex with men).
The new projections have been published in an article in the journal PLoS ONE. Lab tests that can distinguish recent infections from long-standing HIV infections are a part of the new estimates.
Director of CDC, Thomas Frieden, M.D., said: “More than 30 years into the HIV epidemic, about 50,000 people in this country still become infected each year. Not only do men who have sex with men continue to account for most new infections, young gay and bisexual men are the only group in which infections are increasing, and this increase is particularly concerning among young African American MSM . HIV infections can be prevented. By getting tested, reducing risky behaviors, and getting treatment, people can protect themselves and their loved ones.”
Some of the highlights of the report are as follows:
• 48,600 New infections in 2006
• 56,000 New infections in 2007
• 47,800 New infections in 2008
• 48,100 New infections in 2009
An average of nearly 50,000 new cases were reported annually which established that HIV incidence did not alter significantly during the 4-year period.
Based on ethnic/racial groups, new infections in 2009 are as follows:
• 11,400 in White MSM
• 10,800 in Black MSM
• 6,000 in Hispanic MSM
• 5,400 in Black females
Director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, Kevin Fenton, M.D., said: “While we’re encouraged that prevention efforts have helped avoid overall increases in HIV infections in the United States, and have significantly reduced new infections from the peak in the mid-1980s, we have plateaued at an unacceptably high level. Without intensified HIV prevention efforts, we are likely to face an era of rising infection rates and higher health care costs for a preventable condition that already affects more than one million people in this country.”
Gay and Bisexual Males
The MSM (men who have sex with men) group continues to be the most heavily affected one for new HIV infections.
The stats are highlighted as follows:
• 2% of the US population comprises MSM.
• 61% of all new HIV infections in 2009 can be attributed to MSM
• 27% of all new infections in 2009 are caused by MSM aged 13 to 29
• 48% increase in HIV infection rates were observed in young, black MSM between 2006 and 2009
Experts are of the opinion that several factors have contributed to this trend:
• Ignorance of HIV status amongst many young, black MSM
• Some ethnic/racial groups are less likely to seek HIV prevention services due to shame associated with homosexuality and HIV
• Health care, HIV treatment, and testing services are not easily accessible to young, black males
• Younger, black MSM have an increased chance of having older sexual partners and a higher proportion of older MSM are HIV infected.
• HIV transmission is facilitated by young black men who have higher STD rates
Director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, Jonathan Mermin, M.D., said: “We are deeply concerned by the alarming rise in new HIV infections in young, black gay and bisexual men and the continued impact of HIV among young gay and bisexual men of all races. We cannot allow the health of a new generation of gay men to be lost to a preventable disease. It’s time to renew the focus on HIV among gay men and confront the homophobia and stigma that all too often accompany this disease.”
African Americans and Hispanics
In 2009, nearly 44% of new infections occurred among African-Americans and surprisingly, 14% of the US population comprises African-Americans.
The HIV infection rate amongst African-Americans is eight times greater than that seen in whites.
Nearly 20% of all new HIV infections can be attributed to Hispanics, and Hispanics make up for 16% of the US population. The HIV infection rate amongst Hispanics is three times higher than that seen in whites.
Fenton said: “HIV remains one of the most glaring health disparities in this country. While we all have individual responsibility to protect ourselves from HIV infection, the research clearly shows that individual risk behavior alone doesn’t account for the significant racial disparities in HIV. It is essential to understand the underlying factors that contribute to these disparities, such as poverty, discrimination and lack of access to health care.”