HIV Immensely Undertreated in Diagnosed Americans

November 25, 2014
Rachel Lutz

Of the 1.2 million Americans with human immunodeficiency virus in 2011, 70% did not have their condition under control.

Of the 1.2 million Americans with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in 2011, 70% did not have their condition under control, according to a report released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC research also uncovered that roughly two-thirds of American patients with uncontrolled HIV had been previously diagnosed with the virus, but were no longer receiving care.

In their report, the authors highlighted the importance of ongoing care, treatment, and other information and tools that prevent the transmission of HIV to other individuals.

“For people living with HIV, it’s not just about knowing you’re infected — it’s also about going to the doctor for medical care. And for health care facilities, it’s not just about the patients in your care – it’s every person diagnosed, and every person whose diagnosis has not yet been made,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, in a press release. “Key to controlling the nation’s HIV epidemic is helping people with HIV get connected to – and stay in – care and treatment, to suppress the virus, live longer, and help protect others.”

Among the 840,000 Americans living with HIV in 2011 who had not achieved viral suppression, the CDC estimated that 66% had been diagnosed with HIV but were not seeking regular care, and 20% were unaware that they had been infected. Additionally, very few patients (4%) engaged in care but were not prescribed antiretroviral treatment, and 10% were prescribed antiretroviral treatment but had not yet achieved viral suppression.

Between 2009 and 2011, the percentage of HIV-infected Americans who achieved viral suppression remained roughly the same.

Antiretroviral medication is traditionally used to treat HIV and keep the disease controlled at low levels. By taking antiretroviral therapies, patients can live longer, healthier lives and reduce the likelihood of HIV transmission to others. The CDC estimates that there are 50,000 new cases of HIV per year.

The CDC also found that viral suppression increased with age, as young HIV patients were significantly less likely than oldest HIV populations to have their virus in check. In fact, the data demonstrated that only 13% of HIV patients aged 18 to 24 years achieved virally suppression, compared with 23% of those aged 25 to 34 years, 27% of those aged 35 to 44 years, 34% of those aged 45 to 54 years, 36% of those aged 55 to 64 years, and 37% of those aged 65 years and older.

The CDC attributed the superior viral suppression among older groups to the fact that less than half patients aged 18 to 24 years with HIV have been diagnosed with the virus.

“It’s alarming that fewer than half of HIV-positive young adults know they are infected,” said Eugene McCray, MD, director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, in the press release. “Closing that gap could have a huge impact on controlling HIV — knowing your status is the first critical step toward taking care of your own health and avoiding transmission to others.”