HIV Diagnoses Down, But Not for Everyone

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News Science

HIV Diagnoses Down, But Not for Everyone

Martha Kempner

Data released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that HIV diagnoses have declined in the past decade especially among heterosexual people, injecting drug users, and Black women.

Data released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that HIV diagnoses have declined in the past decade, especially among heterosexual people and injecting drug users. Rates of diagnoses among gay and bisexual men vary substantially by race and ethnicity.

The data, released at the 2015 National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta, shows a 19 percent reduction in the number of new HIV diagnoses (from 48,795 to 39,718 per year) between 2005 and 2014 despite testing remaining stable or increasing among some groups. This suggests the data truly reflects a decrease in the number of infections.

The decrease was primarily driven by declines in three groups—heterosexuals (who saw a decline of 35 percent), injection drug users (who saw a decline of 63 percent), and Black women. In 2005, there were 8,020 new HIV diagnoses in Black women. By 2014, this number was down 42 percent to 4,623, though women of color are still have disproportionately affected by HIV.

The story among gay and bisexual men is a bit more complicated. Overall, this group saw a 6 percent increase in diagnoses between 2005 and 2014 (from 25,155 to 26,612) but that increase occurred near the beginning of the decade. Since 2010, new HIV diagnoses have gone up only 1 percent among men who have sex with men. Still, the number of new cases varies widely by race and ethnicity.

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Diagnoses have dropped by 18 percent throughout the decade for white gay and bisexual men. Other groups of gay and bisexual men, however, have mostly seen increases. From 2005 to 2014, diagnoses have increased by 24 percent among Latino gay and bisexual men and 22 percent among Black gay and bisexual men. While Black gay and bisexual men ages 13 to 24 have experienced the steepest increase (87 percent) over the entire decade, this trend may be turning around. There has been a 2 percent decline in diagnoses among this group since 2010.

“We have the tools to stop HIV right now,” Eugene McCray, director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said in a statement. “We urgently need to accelerate access to testing, treatment, and new biomedical prevention strategies so that everyone can protect themselves and their partners.”

The disparities in HIV diagnoses, however, are cause for concern and for more action, a CDC official said.

“Although we are encouraged by the recent slowing of the epidemic among Black gay and bisexual men—especially young men—they continue to face a disproportionately high HIV burden and we must address it,” Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said in a statement. “Much more must be done to reduce new infections and to reverse the increases among Latino men. There is hope that the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and other efforts are beginning to pay off, but we can’t rest until we see equal gains for all races and risk groups.”