While the number of people diagnosed with HIV in the U.S. dropped 33 percent in the last decade, new cases among young homosexual and bisexual men doubled, according to researchers who said prevention programs need to be expanded.
Better screening and prevention has driven the decline among women and people ages 35 to 44 years, a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. The two-fold increase was seen among young bisexual and homosexual men age 13 to 24 years, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The findings, being released today to coincide with the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia, are the first to use data from all 50 U.S. states to examine long-term trends in diagnosis, said study author Amy Lansky. Though strides are being made to cut HIV, prevention and screening efforts aren’t adequately reaching a younger group, she said.
“There’s a new generation that comes up and many don’t have first-hand experience with the devastation we saw in the earlier years,” said Lansky, the CDC’s deputy director for Surveillance, Epidemiology and Laboratory Science in the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention in Atlanta, in a telephone interview.
There is also a higher prevalence of HIV among gay and bisexual men, so “they face a greater risk of being exposed to HIV with each sexual encounter,” she said. Lack of access to health care as well as substance abuse also raises the risk, she said.
1.1 million Infected
HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, damages certain blood cells that are important for the immune system’s ability to fight disease. The infection can be asymptomatic for several years.
More than 1.1 million people in the U.S. are currently infected, according to the CDC. Of those, about 16 percent are unaware of their status. The U.S. Preventive Service Task Force recommends that everyone ages 15 to 65 should be screened for the virus.
Researchers analyzed data on U.S. HIV infections diagnosed from 2002-2011 in people ages 13 years and older from all 50 states and Washington. They found that the annual diagnosis rate dropped to 16.1 per 100,000 people in 2011 from 24.1 in 2002.