Bloomberg — Rates of HIV have continued to fall in the US, although less so among at-risk Black and Latino men who are less likely to get a medication that’s shown to prevent the disease.
Estimated annual new HIV infections were 12% lower in 2021 than in 2017, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that offer the first insights into how HIV prevention efforts fared during the Covid-19 pandemic. The decline was driven by a 34% drop in new HIV infections among mostly young gay and bisexual men ages 13 to 24, the agency said Tuesday in a report.
Improvements weren’t even across populations. Young White men saw a 45% reduction in new HIV infections, while the decline was just 36% among young Latino men and 27% among young Black men. The findings suggest interventions aren’t reaching everyone who needs them, the CDC said, reflecting “broader disparities that hinder HIV prevention.”
Inequities such as economic marginalization and residential segregation “stand between a highly effective HIV treatment and prevention and people who could benefit from them,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. “Efforts must be accelerated and strengthened for progress to reach all groups faster and equitably.”
About 1.2 million people in the US are estimated to have HIV, according to the CDC, 87% of whom have received a diagnosis. If left untreated, HIV can lead to AIDS. More than half of new US HIV infections in 2021 were in the South, according to the data.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a drug regimen that’s highly effective at preventing HIV. Taken as pills or shots, the medication can reduce the chance of getting HIV from sex by about 99%. About 30% of people who could benefit from PrEP were prescribed it in 2021 — up from just 13% in 2017, CDC said.
While the majority of new HIV infections have occurred in minority populations, most PrEP prescriptions have gone to White people, according to the CDC. In 2021, just 21% of Latino people who could benefit from PrEP were prescribed it and even fewer eligible Black people — 11% — were given prescriptions.
The CDC is working on new outreach efforts aimed at increasing PrEP coverage in minority groups who are disproportionately affected by HIV. One program is focused on Black men in the South, Robyn Neblett Fanfair, acting director of CDC’s Division of HIV Prevention, said on a call with reporters.
A government initiative to reduce new HIV infections in the US by at least 90% by 2030 is on track to miss its goals if progress continues at the current rate, said Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.
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