An HIV-infected T-cell (Photo: NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), via Wikimedia Commons).
A study released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that if current HIV diagnosis rates persist, about 1 in 6 men who have sex with men (MSM) will contract HIV at some point in their lifetime. The numbers are even higher for men of color, with 1 in 4 Latino MSM and 1 in every 2 black MSM likely to be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime.
The study, which was presented today at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston, is being touted as providing the first-ever comprehensive national estimates of the lifetime risk of HIV, broken down by several key at-risk populations and by state.
“As alarming as these lifetime risk estimates are, they are not a foregone conclusion. They are a call to action,” Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and Tuberculosis Prevention, said in a statement. “The prevention and care strategies we have at our disposal today provide a promising outlook for future reductions of HIV infections and disparities in the U.S., but hundreds of thousands of people will be diagnosed in their lifetime if we don’t scale up efforts now.”
Nationwide, the lifetime risk of HIV diagnosis for a person in the United States is 1 in 99, which marks an improvement over data from a decade ago. According to a previous analysis using 2004-2005 data, the previous overall risk stood at a 1 in 78 chance of getting diagnosed with HIV.
As expected, gay and bisexual men have disproportionately high rates of infection. Broken down by race and ethnicity, African-Americans have higher rates compared to whites, with 1 in 20 black men and 1 in 48 black women likely to be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. People who use intravenous drugs also have higher rates of transmission, although women who use intravenous drugs are at higher risk than men.
As a region, the 16 states and the District of Columbia, which comprise the South, have higher rates of likely HIV diagnosis. A person in the District is the most likely to contract HIV at some point, with a 1 in 13 chance of testing positive. Maryland is second, with a 1 in 49 rate, followed by Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana. Of the top 13 states with the highest risk of HIV diagnosis, only two — New York and New Jersey — are from outside the South.
Part of the CDC’s prevention efforts aimed at slowing the spread of HIV include increased testing, getting those with HIV diagnoses into ongoing care and on antiretrovirals to suppress the virus, and promoting the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and condoms, particularly for those populations at higher risk of infection.
“These estimates are a sobering reminder that gay and bisexual men face an unacceptably high risk for HIV — and of the urgent need for action,” Dr. Eugene McCray, director of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said in a statement. “If we work to ensure that every American has access to the prevention tools we know work, we can avoid the outcomes projected in this study.”