World AIDS Day: CDC Releases New HIV Diagnosis and Prevalence Data

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In advance of World AIDS Day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its latest report on recently diagnosed HIV infections in the United States. The new HIV Surveillance Report, which covers data through 2015, shows that HIV diagnoses have decreased among both women and men, and among African Americans, Latinos, and whites, but have risen among young people age 25-29. As people with HIV live longer thanks to effective antiretroviral treatment, HIV prevalence has reached an all-time high of more than 955,000 people.

CDC's HIV Surveillance Report, which has been published since 1982, includes detailed information about diagnosed HIV infection in the U.S. This year's edition uses a new approach -- made possible by improvements in surveillance methods and data sources -- that will no longer involve statistical adjustment to account for delays in reporting.

"Our nation’s HIV surveillance systems have advanced a long way since the early days of the epidemic, both in terms of how data is collected and how it is analyzed and reported. Today, most states report complete information on HIV cases to CDC -- including the person’s age, race/ethnicity, risk factors, and even their HIV viral load at the time they are diagnosed," explained Eugene McCray, director of CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. "Removing duplicate cases takes much less time than it used to, and new technology means we can process large quantities of data much more quickly."

While the new report includes 2015 data, assessments of trends are based on HIV diagnoses and deaths from 2010 through 2014. The CDC cautioned that data for 2015 are considered preliminary, based on only a 6-month reporting delay, and may not include all recently diagnosed cases. Although the 2015 data are not included in the trends, they do provide minimum estimates of the number of new diagnoses and a preliminary "snapshot" of how they're distributed across different groups.

Rates of new HIV diagnoses in 2015 (per 100,000 people):

Men who have sex with men had the highest number of new diagnoses in 2015 -- more than 26,000 -- compared to about 3000 men who acquired HIV via heterosexual contact and 1400 via injection drug use. Among women, heterosexual contact accounted for nearly 6400 cases and injection drug use for 980 cases. However, the CDC did not calculate rates for transmission categories due to uncertainty about the denominators, or the total number of gay/bisexual men or people who inject drugs in the population.

Key trends during 2010-2014 include:

African Americans accounted for 42% of people with diagnosed HIV, despite making up about 13% of the total U.S. population. Men who have sex with men accounted for about 70% of both total and newly diagnosed HIV cases.

People aged 50-54 made up the largest proportion (18%) of people living with diagnosed HIV at the end of 2014, and the greatest increase was seen in the 65 and older age group, reflecting the aging of the epidemic.

The CDC noted that trends in new HIV diagnoses are influenced by testing rates. If more tests are done, more people will test HIV-positive even if the actual rate of new infections -- known as incidence -- has not changed.

Nevertheless, "the declines seen in this report suggest that national HIV prevention efforts are paying off, while signaling the urgent need for intensified prevention among young people and men who have sex with men," according to McCray.

"One encouraging sign is that HIV prevalence -- the number of people living with diagnosed HIV -- reached an all-time high at the end of 2014, largely because fewer people are dying of HIV than ever before," McCray wrote. "This signals that our efforts to improve care outcomes are having a positive impact. It is also encouraging because we know that when people’s HIV is suppressed by treatment, they are unlikely to transmit infection to others."

11/29/16

Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diagnoses of HIV Infection in the United States and Dependent Areas, 2015. HIV Surveillance Reports, vol. 27. November 2016.

E McCray, CDC. HIV & AIDS in the United States Update: 2015 HIV Surveillance Report. Colleague advisory. November 29, 2016.

E McCray. With Better Data, A Foundation for Stronger HIV Prevention. Blog.AIDS.gov. November 29, 2016.