HIV infections down in the US, but not for young and latino gays

Despite a drop in the HIV infection rate over the past six years in America, young men who have sex with men are not seeing the same progress.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of annual HIV infections in the US fell 18 percent between 2008 and 2014 — from an estimated 45,700 to 37,600.

Progress, however, was not the same among all populations in the country, the CDC said. Gay and bisexual men were the only group that did not experience an overall decline in annual HIV infections from 2008 to 2014.

This, it explained, is because reduced infections among whites and the youngest gay and bisexual men were offset by increases in other groups.

Annual infections remained stable at about 26,000 per year among gay and bisexual men overall and about 10,000 infections per year among black gay and bisexual men — a hopeful sign after more than a decade of increases in these populations.

However, concerning trends emerged among gay and bisexual males of certain ages and ethnicities, with annual infections increasing: 35 percent among 25- to 34-year-old gay and bisexual males (from 7,200 to 9,700) and 20 percent among Latino gay and bisexual males (from 6,100 to 7,300).

“Unfortunately, progress remains uneven across communities and populations,” said Eugene McCray, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. “High-impact prevention strategies must continue to be developed and implemented at the state and local levels to accelerate progress. That means more testing to diagnose infections, increasing the proportion of people with HIV who are taking HIV treatment effectively and maximising the impact of all available prevention tools.”

CDC researchers believe that the overall declines in annual HIV infections are due, in large part, to efforts to increase the number of people living with HIV who know their HIV status and are virally suppressed — meaning their HIV infection is under control through effective treatment.

Increases in the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, may also have played a role in preventing new infections in recent years. PrEP, a pill that people who do not have HIV can take daily, reduces the risk of infection from sex by more than 90 percent.

“Maximising the power of these new prevention tools in conjunction with testing and education efforts, offers the hope of ending the HIV epidemic in this nation,” said Dr McCray. “Science has shown us the power of HIV treatment medicines in benefiting people with and without HIV.”

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