While the overall number of HIV diagnoses continues to fall in the United States since the first cases were documented 30 years ago, at least two groups of the population are seeing a sharp increase in those numbers.
A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released this month shows a nearly 87% increase in the number of HIV diagnoses of African-American gay and bisexual males and Latino gay and bisexual males, aged 13-24.
Overall, the number of diagnoses for the entire population dropped by 19% from 2005-2014, the analysis showed.
A risky environment
There is a high prevalence of HIV in the African-American gay and bisexual community, according to Dr. Eugene McCray, director of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention.
“If you are a young black man, and are having sex with other black men, your chance of being exposed is really high,” he said.
Part of the problem, he said, is the low rate of condom use in that community.
Adding to the risk is the fact that nearly a third of black gay and bisexual men between the ages of 13-24 who are HIV-positive don’t know it, said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Prevention.
“A fair proportion haven’t been diagnosed. It creates a risky environment,” Mermin said.
In all ages of black gay and bisexual men, the number of diagnoses increased 22% over the past decade, but those rates have been leveling off since 2010, the CDC report showed. Latino gay and bisexual men of all ages have also seen their number of HIV diagnoses rise by 24% over the past 10 years.
In the same time period, the number of HIV cases has dropped 35% among heterosexual adults, 63% among intravenous drug users, and 22% among all African-Americans, according to the CDC. Women have also seen a significant decline in HIV infections, down 40%, from 12,499 diagnoses in 2005 to just 7,533 in 2014, with the biggest drop occurring among African-American women, who have seen the number of cases nearly drop in a half, from 8,020 HIV diagnoses in 2005 to 4,623 in 2014.
Southern states have highest incidences of HIV
Across the country, Southern states currently have the greatest incidence of HIV infection, illness and death. In fact, while the South represents about a third of the general population, it is home to 44% of those who are HIV-positive. Those individuals are also three times more likely to die than those with HIV living in other parts of the country.
Mermin said it’s very important to target groups that have been disproportionately impacted by HIV with more intervention.
“We have to accelerate access to HIV testing, treatment and prevention, including PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), to those at greatest risk,” he explained.
Today, more than 1.2 million people in the United States are HIV-positive. About one in eight of those infected are unaware of their status.