MONDAY, March 18, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Shortfalls in HIV testing and treatment are hampering efforts to stop new infections of the AIDS-causing virus in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
"We have the tools to end the HIV epidemic, but a tool is only useful if it's in someone's hands," said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, the agency's director of HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, STD and TB prevention.
"This is why it's vital to bring testing and treatment to everyone with HIV -- and to empower them to take control of their lives and change the course of the epidemic," Mermin said in a CDC news release.
New study data reveal that in 2016, about 80 percent of new HIV infections were transmitted from the nearly 40 percent of people with HIV who either did not know they had HIV, or who received a diagnosis but were not being treated.
The nearly 15 percent of people with undiagnosed HIV accounted for almost 40 percent of all HIV transmissions, the CDC reported.
And the roughly one-quarter of people with diagnosed HIV who were not receiving care accounted for 43 percent of all HIV transmissions, the findings showed.
The new study findings were published March 18 in the CDC publication Vital Signs to coincide with the opening of CDC's 2019 National HIV Prevention Conference, in Atlanta. The report highlights an urgent need to expand HIV testing and treatment in the United States.
A new government initiative hopes to address that need, by getting more people tested for HIV and boosting treatment rates.
The initiative will first focus on the 48 counties with the highest rates of HIV, plus Washington, D.C., San Juan, Puerto Rico, and seven states with high HIV rates in rural areas. The goal is to reduce new HIV infections by at least 90 percent over 10 years.
Health officials have asked for $291 million in the fiscal year 2020 Health and Human Services budget to provide the hardest-hit communities with additional expertise, technology, and resources to combat the HIV epidemic in their communities.
CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield said, "Diagnose, treat, protect, and respond: These are the key strategies in our historic initiative to end the HIV epidemic in America by engaging all the people at risk into comprehensive prevention strategies."
According to Redfield, "These new Vital Signs data show the tremendous impact we can have by helping all Americans living with HIV know their diagnosis, quickly get into treatment, and remain in care to stay healthy."
Once people learn they have HIV, they should begin taking antiretroviral therapy (ART), the CDC advises.
Taken as directed, ART suppresses the amount of HIV in the body to a very low level. Research shows that viral suppression can protect the health of people with HIV and lower their risk of transmitting HIV to others through sex.
AIDS.gov has more on HIV/AIDS.