New data from the Centers for Disease Control estimates that even though the total number of Americans living with HIV steadily increased between 1980 and 2010, the rise is partly due to the fact that treatment programs are helping HIV-positive individuals live longer and healthier lives. Overall, new HIV infections have not increased, and the CDC estimates that prevention efforts have averted more than 350,000 cases of infection to date. Unfortunately, that good news doesn’t hold true for every community once the data is broken down by specific demographics.
The HIV epidemic is still disproportionately impacting the LGBT community — particularly men who have sex with men (MSM), who accounted for nearly two-thirds of all new infections in 2010. And the CDC reported last month that young people between the ages of 13 and 24 aren’t getting the message about HIV testing and treatment, despite the recent public education campaigns on the topic, which may be why the number of new HIV infections among MSM in that age group increased 22 percent from 2008 to 2010:
And gains in HIV treatment are also racially stratified, as African-American men continue to bear the biggest burden. Although the cases of new HIV infections among African-American women did decline between 2008 and 2010, black women still accounted for nearly two-thirds of all new infections among women in 2010. Nearly 90 percent of those women contracted the virus from heterosexual sex. Altogether, the rate of HIV infection for black Americans is about eight times higher than the rate for white Americans:
Fortunately, the U.S. made big strides toward combating HIV over the past year, a time period that is not reflected in the CDC’s new report. Breakthroughs in HIV research and drugs may help ensure that HIV-positive individuals’ life expectancy is extended even further, and the health reform law will help ensure that HIV testing and treatment is affordable for Americans who may have previously gone without it. The next time the CDC runs the numbers, there may be even more good news to report, even for typically hard-hit demographic groups.