Since the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, HIV transmission rates have fallen dramatically in the United States thanks to decades of public health education and scientific research. Today, high-risk individuals can even take daily doses of Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent themselves from becoming infected with HIV. But despite the significant strides that have been made in AIDS research in education, there’s still plenty of work that needs to be done to eradicate the disease altogether.
Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a new report which illustrates some of the shortfalls in testing and treatment that continue to inhibit AIDS prevention efforts.
Perhaps the most troubling part of the report concerns new cases of HIV in America. According to the CDC, in 2016 about 80 percent of all new HIV infections were transmitted by individuals who either didn’t know they had HIV, or who had received a diagnosis but were not being treated for HIV. Furthermore, the CDC estimates that there are still over a million people living with HIV in the United States, and about 165,000 of those don’t know they have the virus.
The CDC recommends that anyone who has tested positive for HIV should under antiretroviral therapy (ART). When used as directed, ART can effectively suppress the virus to a point where there is virtually no risk of transmitting HIV to others through sex. Unfortunately, however, an estimated 23 percent of people with HIV diagnoses are not currently receiving this type of care.
“Today, we have the tools to end the HIV epidemic,” says Jonathan Mermin, M.D., director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention. “But a tool is only useful if it’s in someone’s hands. 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.”