(CTN News) – The number of new HIV infections in the United States decreased somewhat over four years, but the country is still a long way from achieving its objective of ending the epidemic, according to figures released by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday.
According to the CDC’s assessment, there are significant racial gaps in the availability of treatment. Thus, most people at high risk from the virus are not receiving crucial treatments to prevent infection.
The number of infections decreased by 12% from 2017, when there were 36,500, to 2021, when there were only 32,100. The results showed that new HIV infections fell by 34% among people aged 13 to 24.
The United States has committed to a national target of lowering new HIV infections by 90% by 2030, effectively ending the pandemic.
Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s national center for HIV and STD Prevention, told reporters on a call Tuesday that the country is not on track to accomplish that goal if development continues at the current pace.
Dr. Robyn Neblett Fanfair, a senior official in the CDC’s HIV prevention efforts, has stated that racism, economic disparity, social marginalization, and residential segregation all contribute to an increased risk of infection for gay and bisexual males and Black and Hispanic groups.
About two-thirds of all new HIV infections in 2021 were found in gay and bisexual men, with the vast majority occurring in people of African American and Hispanic descent.
According to the statistics, around 40% of new infections occurred among Black men and 35% among Hispanic men in the LGBT community.
Black women accounted for 60% of all new infections among heterosexual women. According to the CDC, Black men comprise roughly 61% of new infections among heterosexual men.
In 2021, almost 60% of people who used intravenous drugs and were diagnosed with HIV were Caucasian.
Almost 60% of all new cases were found in the South.
The CDC analysis found that only 30% of the 1.2 million persons at highest risk of HIV in 2021 used medications known as pre-exposure prophylaxis to avoid infection. PrEP use has climbed dramatically since 2017, when just 13% of the at-risk population used it.
While it is a goal of U.S. health officials to have at least half of the at-risk population using PrEP by 2025, significant racial inequities in treatment must be addressed.
In 2021, just 11% of persons of African descent and 21% of people of Hispanic descent at risk for HIV obtained PrEP. While only 22% of blacks at risk were taking preventative medication that year, 78% of whites at risk were.
According to Neblett Fanfair, the CDC will launch a campaign targeting Black and Hispanic homosexual and bisexual males in the South to reduce the disparity in PrEP coverage.
A federal court in the U.S. Northern District of Texas recently ruled against an Obamacare requirement that most private insurance plans cover PrEP, threatening access to the medication. A federal appeals court has temporarily reinstated coverage for these services and placed the previous verdict on hold.
Mermin did not provide specific comments on the case, but he did express concern about anything that might make it more difficult for people to access HIV preventive programs.
President Biden Urges Congress to Increase Funding for Ending the HIV Epidemic
Vice President Joe Biden has requested that Congress provide an additional $850 million (a 48% increase over the 2023 budget for the effort) to help combat the HIV epidemic in the United States. Biden is asking for $237 million to fund a nationwide PrEP initiative.
By 2025, health officials hope that 95% of those diagnosed with HIV will be able to lower their viral load to undetectable levels with the help of appropriate therapy. According to the CDC, people with HIV who have been virally suppressed can lead normal lives and are not infectious to their sexual partners.
In 2021, the overall HIV treatment success rate was 66%, but significant racial gaps remained.
The viral load of 62% of Black persons and 64% of Hispanic people diagnosed with HIV was suppressed, compared to 72% of white people.