New Data Show Rates of US HIV/AIDS Diagnoses Are Steady; Racial Disparities Persist
HIV testing rates are higher among CDC-recommended groups
than general population
Rates of HIV/AIDS diagnoses in the United States stayed steady for the years 2000-2003, but sharp racial disparities remain, according to an analysis of data from 32 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced today.
Rates of HIV/AIDS diagnosis—the number of new diagnoses of HIV per 100,000 population regardless of whether infection has progressed to AIDS—among non-Hispanic African-Americans in the United States were significantly higher than among other racial and ethnic groups. The rate of HIV/AIDS diagnosis among African-American females in 2003 (53 cases per 100,000 population) was more than 18 times higher than among white women and almost five times higher than among Latina women. In addition, African-American women accounted for 69 percent of female HIV diagnoses during 2000-2003.
“The number of women of color in the United States that continue to be affected by this devastating disease is quite sobering,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy G. Thompson. ”We will not become complacent in our efforts to aggressively fight this disease which continues to rob too many people of the quality of life they deserve.”
Overall, 125,800 people were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the 32 states that conducted confidential, name-based reporting from 2000 through 2003. More than half of diagnoses (51 percent) were among African Americans, although they account for only 13 percent of the population of the 32 states. Thirty-two percent of diagnoses were among whites and 15 percent were among Latinos. Asians/Pacific Islanders and American Indians each accounted for 1 percent of diagnoses during the 4-year period.
Men of color were also disproportionately represented among rates of new HIV diagnoses. In 2003, the highest rate of HIV/AIDS diagnosis was among African-American males (103.4 per 100,000 population), a rate almost seven times that of white men and nearly three times the rate among Latino men. Men who have sex with men (MSM) continued to account for the largest proportion of diagnoses—44 percent of all HIV diagnoses during the four-year period, and 61 percent of diagnoses among men.
“Nearly a quarter of a century has passed since HIV/AIDS was first recognized and it’s simply unacceptable that so many people continue to be infected by this virus,” said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding. “We are making progress in our fight but many challenges lie ahead.”
New Data on HIV Testing Trends Released
CDC today also issued new data on HIV testing trends in the U.S. from two national surveys conducted in 2002 with more than 100,000 people. The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) showed that 10 percent of adults reported HIV testing in the previous year. The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) reported that about 12 percent of adults were tested in the previous 12 months. The overall proportion of Americans who report being tested during the prior year has remained roughly stable since 1992.
“Our efforts are paying off. People who should be getting tested are coming forward and learning their status,’’ said Dr. Gerberding. “It’s important that people know their status because modern medical care and treatments are helping people who are infected with HIV live healthy and productive lives.”
Greater use of the rapid HIV tests approved in 2002 is expected to continue to increase the number of persons who get tested. The tests can provide preliminary results in less than a half-hour and can be used outside of clinical settings, making it possible to reach people at risk in a wide variety of settings. To date, CDC has:
Purchased and distributed 500,000 rapid test kits to local health departments and community-based organizations
Started pilot projects in seven cities to use the rapid tests in non-clinical settings, and
Trained more than 1,000 people to perform the rapid test and to provide counseling and testing
Testing rates were higher among groups for whom HIV testing is recommended by CDC than among the general population. Nearly one-fourth of people at increased behavioral risk for HIV were tested in the previous year – 21 percent in the NHIS and 27 percent in the BRFSS. About half of pregnant women – 48 percent in NHIS and 54 percent in BRFSS – reported being tested in the previous year.
Increased access to voluntary counseling and testing is an essential part of reducing new HIV infections in the U.S. CDC estimates that between 850,000 and 950,000 Americans are now living with HIV, and that one-fourth are unaware of their infection. An estimated 40,000 new HIV infections continue to occur in the U.S. each year.
CDC currently funds prevention programs for African-American and Latina women that emphasize better links between prevention and treatment services, education about how to best protect against HIV transmission, and effective programs for reducing risky behaviors. CDC also provides funds to 104 community-based organizations for HIV/AIDS prevention. More than 15% of these programs focus on girls and women; 84% serve African-American girls and women and 72% serve Hispanic girls and women.
The 32 states included in the analysis have conducted confidential, name-based HIV/AIDS case reporting for at least four years . These states represented 49% of the nation’s AIDS cases during the 2000-2003 period. The data may not be nationally representative since California, New York, and several other states with high numbers of AIDS cases were not included. However, national AIDS statistics suggest the racial and ethnic disparities seen in this analysis are occurring nationwide.
In 2003, to help reduce barriers to early HIV diagnosis, CDC launched Advancing HIV Prevention (AHP), an initiative designed to increase knowledge of HIV status among at-risk and infected individuals. AHP is one component of CDC’s work with communities, public health partners, and health care providers across the nation to help at-risk individuals reduce their risk, to help HIV-infected individuals take steps to protect their own health and avoid infecting others, to develop new behavioral and biomedical approaches to prevent infection, and to diagnose and treat STDs, which can increase the risk of HIV transmission.