Time to HIV Diagnosis Improving, But Many Still Unaware of Infection Status

NOVEMBER 29, 2017
Jennifer Barrett, Assistant Editor
Americans are getting tested and diagnosed with HIV sooner after infection, according to a recently-published CDC Vital Signs report. However, continued efforts are needed to ensure that high-risk individuals are aware of their infection status.

According to the CDC, an estimated 40% of new HIV infections originate from people who are unaware that they have HIV. Delayed or missed HIV diagnoses can result in ongoing transmission of the infection, making it important for health care providers to ensure that high-risk patients are being tested and diagnosed as soon as possible.

According to the report, the median time from infection to diagnosis was 3 years in 2015, compared with the previously estimated 3 years and 7 months in 2011. In 2015, 15% of US individuals with HIV were unaware of their infection, and the percentage of undiagnosed HIV infections ranged from 5.7% to 18.5% across the United States.

The 7-month decrease over a 4-year period indicates that the approach to HIV prevention is working, the researchers noted. Overall, 85% of the estimated 1.1 million individuals living with HIV in 2014 knew their status.

Prior year testing for HIV increased over time among individuals at high risk. However, the researchers noted that improvements in testing rates are still needed. The individuals who reported that they did not get tested in the last year included 29% of gay and bisexual men, 42% of people who inject drugs, and 58% of heterosexuals at increased risk for HIV. The study also found that two-thirds of individuals at high risk who were not tested for HIV in the past year saw a health care provider during that time–indicating a missed opportunity for providers to initiate testing.

According to the CDC’s recommendations, all individuals aged 13-64 years old should be tested at least once as a routine part of medical care and those at high-risk should be tested more frequently.

Although testing and diagnosis has increased, diagnosis delays continue to be substantial in certain populations. The researchers concluded that routine and targeted testing can help reduce the number of individuals who are unaware of their infection and prevent missed opportunities for care and treatment.  

Reference

Dailey AF, Hoots BE, Hall HI, et al. Vital Signs: Human Immunodeficiency Virus Testing and Diagnosis Delays – United States. MMWR.  Published November 28, 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6647e1.htm?s_cid=mm6647e1_w.
 

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