One in every five HIV positive Amercans is not aware he/she is infected, and only 49% of those who know they are infected receive ongoing medical care and treatment, says a new Vital Signs report issued by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). There are nearly 1.2 million Americans who live with HIV, of whom approximately just 28% have a viral load of below 200 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood (a low viral load).
HIV infected patients with a low viral load have their infection under control – at a level that allows them to stay healthy, and also minimizes their risk of passing it on to other people.
77% of HIV positive Americans who are receiving “ongoing” antiretroviral treatment and care have suppressed levels of HIV. Proper and effective HIV therapy and care improves the patient’s health, and prevents the spread of infection.
The NIH (National Institutes of Health) carried out a study recently on heterosexual couples which demonstrated that ongoing antiretroviral therapy, combined with safety behaviors, can reduce the risk of HIV spreading by about 96%.
CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., said:
“While we have known that viral suppression can be achieved with proper HIV treatment and care, today’s new Vital Signs data highlight the challenges our country faces in keeping HIV-positive Americans in the care they need to control the virus.
By improving testing, linkage to care and treatment services, we can help people living with HIV feel better and live longer, and can reduce the spread of HIV dramatically. This is not just an individual responsibility, but a responsibility for families, partners, communities and health care providers.”
The authors explain that MSM (men who have sex with men) tend to have the lowest awareness of their HIV status, and are the least likely to receive counseling on infection prevention. A recent report showed that 39% of MSM are aware of their HIV status and receive prevention counseling compared to 50% of heterosexual males and females.
The researchers stress that every stage of the treatment and care of HIV in America needs to be improved. More Americans need to be tested, linked to care, given ongoing care, provided with prevention counseling , and treated successfully if viral suppression is to be achieved.
Jonathan Mermin, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said:
“Closing the gaps in testing, access to care and treatment will all be essential to slowing the U.S. HIV epidemic. HIV testing is the most important first step toward breaking the cycle of transmission. Combined with effective prevention services, linkage to care and ongoing effective treatment, testing provides a gateway to the most effective prevention tools at our disposal.”
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