CDC: Most new HIV infections come from those not receiving treatment

CDC: Most new HIV infections come from those not receiving treatment
© Getty Images

Thirty-eight percent of people with HIV weren't receiving treatment and were linked to 81 percent of new infections of the virus, according to 2016 data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Monday.

Of the 1.1 million people living with HIV in the U.S. in 2016, 15 percent were unaware they had the virus and were linked to 38 percent of new infections, according to the data. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Twenty-three percent of people knew they had HIV but weren't in care and were linked to 43 percent of new infections that year. 

The CDC said the data prove the effort to end HIV in the U.S. needs to focus on quickly diagnosing those who have it, treating them as soon as possible and protecting people who are at risk of getting it. 

"A goal that once seemed impossible is now within our reach," CDC Director Robert Redfield said Monday in a call with reporters. 

The administration recently announced a plan to reduce new HIV infections by 75 percent in five years and 90 percent in 10 years. 

The data showed that 51 percent of people with HIV are receiving treatment and have suppressed the virus to a very low level where there is effectively no risk of transmitting it. 

There is no cure for HIV. But people who take antiretroviral therapy (ART) can live "longer, healthier lives" and have no risk of transmitting the virus as long as they take their medicine as prescribed, the CDC says. 

Eleven percent of people with HIV were in care but not virally suppressed and were linked to 20 percent of new infections.

This can happen when someone with HIV isn't taking their medication as prescribed, sometimes because they can't afford it.  

ART can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars a month for those without insurance, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The new strategy to end HIV will focus on expanding access to treatment and prevention medication. 

But some HIV/AIDS experts say that the $291 million in extra funding that federal agencies ask for in the 2020 budget request is not enough. 

Redfield, responding to the criticism Monday, didn't say how much the plan would cost over ten years but said they would request adequate funding to address the problem. 

"We're going to get this plan done," Redfield said, adding he was "confident we will have the resources."