CDC Releases Updated Estimates About HIV Prevalence in U.S.; Agency Says 1.1 Million People Living With VirusCDC on Friday in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released updated estimates of HIV prevalence in the U.S., saying that 1.1 million people were living with the virus at the end of 2006, Bloomberg reports. According to the report, the increase in the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. in part is because of more effective antiretroviral drugs that have prolonged the lives of those living with the disease. Based on 2006 data, the study supports previous findings that HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects blacks and men who have sex with men. The estimate takes into account improved methodology and CDC's recent finding that the number of annual new HIV/AIDS infections in the U.S. is 40% higher than previously suspected (Lauerman, Bloomberg, 10/2).
Richard Wolitski, acting chief of CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said, "These data really show the continued impact that the epidemic is having on Americans, and they really reinforce the severe toll that is experienced in multiple communities" (Dunham, Reuters, 10/2). He added that CDC expects HIV prevalence "to keep increasing over time as treatment prolongs the lives of infected people and new infections outpace deaths" (Bloomberg, 10/2).
According to the report, in 2006, 48% of prevalent cases were attributable to male-to-male sexual contact, 28% to heterosexual contact and 19% to injection use. Overall, men accounted for almost 75% of HIV prevalent cases.
In terms of demographics, blacks made up 12% of the overall U.S. population but accounted for 46% of people living with HIV/AIDS in 2006. About 35% of people living with HIV/AIDS were white, and about 18% were Hispanic. In addition, the HIV prevalence rate among black women was almost 18 times higher than the rate among white women, while the prevalence rate was six times higher among black men than among white men (Reuters, 10/2). In addition, the report also found that HIV/AIDS prevalence rate among Hispanic men was more than twice that of white men, while the prevalence rate among Hispanic women was more than four times that of white women (MMWR, 10/3).
Wolitski said, "CDC has recognized and reported data on the disproportionate impact of the disease on blacks in the U.S. since the early years of the epidemic," adding, "This disparity is not one that is new, but it's one that remains and requires a heightened level of response" (Bloomberg, 10/2).
According to CDC, one in five -- or 232,700 of the 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS estimated in 2006 -- were not aware of their HIV-positive status in 2006 (Reuters, 10/2). The agency has called for bolstered HIV testing to enable access to appropriate medical care and ensure those infected understand the risk of spreading HIV. However, a majority of new infections are transmitted by who people who do not know they have the virus, CDC said. The study said, "Expanding the number and reach of effective HIV prevention services for at-risk populations -- including blacks, Hispanics and MSM of all races -- can contribute to reducing the disproportionate numbers of infections in these groups" (Bloomberg, 10/2).
Wolitski said that the increasing number of HIV/AIDS cases and the cost of treating them place a burden on the country's health care system. The study found that 14,000 Americans died of HIV/AIDS-related illnesses in 2006. According to the report, the previous estimate that one million people in the U.S. were HIV-positive in 2003 has been revised to 994,000 people living with HIV that year (Reuters, 10/2).
The study is available online. This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.