Many Americans with HIV go untreated: Study

Last Updated: Thursday, December 1, 2011 - 10:06

Washington: Nearly three quarters of the 1.2 million Americans with HIV do not have their infection under control, raising the risk of death from AIDS and transmission to others, a US study said.

One in five people with human immunodeficiency virus are unaware that they have the disease, added the report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released on Tuesday ahead of World AIDS Day on December 1.

Among people who know their HIV status is positive, only about half (51 percent) get ongoing medical treatment, said the CDC`s Vital Signs report.

Of all people in the United States who have HIV, whether they know it or not, 36 per cent take antiretroviral therapy and 28 per cent have a low amount of the virus in their body.

"The HIV crisis in America is far from over," Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC`s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, told reporters.

"Today`s Vital Signs shows that closing the gaps in testing, care and treatment will all be essential to slowing or reversing the US HIV epidemic."

The CDC defines a viral load as "suppressed" if a person has less than 200 copies of blood-borne virus per millilitre of blood.

Treatment with antiretroviral drugs has been shown to suppress levels of the virus in 77 per cent of people who follow the regimen, and studies have shown it can cut the risk of transmission to a partner by 96 per cent.

But while new cases of HIV have levelled off at about 50,000 in the United States each year, with 16,000 people dying annually of AIDS, more must be done to make sure people get tested and treated, authorities said.

"We are in a time of new hope for stopping HIV, and this week`s World AIDS Day is a time to acknowledge that," CDC director Thomas Frieden said, urging a new push by all levels of government.

"The bottom line is we have the tools to stop HIV from spreading in the individual patient and we have the tools to greatly reduce its spread in communities," Frieden said.

"First is to increase the proportion of people who know their status. Knowledge is power," he told reporters.

"Second, to make sure that people with HIV have every opportunity to remain in ongoing care after they`re diagnosed."
Black men who have sex with men are a particularly high-risk group, with African-American gay males accounting for 27 per cent of all new infections in the United States, according to CDC data.

Also, more than a third of young black homosexual men are infected with HIV, more than twice the level seen in white gay men. Surveys also suggest a full 60 per cent of black gay men living with HIV do not know they are HIV positive.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 09:37

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