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At the International AIDS Conference held in Mexico City, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released revised statistics showing HIV infections in the United States are 40% higher than previously estimated.
According to the report, of the approximately 1.3 million persons living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S., 53% of infections resulted from male-to-male sexual contact, 31% due to heterosexual contact, 12% due to injected drug use, and that the infection rate among blacks (who comprise 70% of new reported cases) was seven times higher than whites.
The CDC pointed out that the higher estimates do not necessarily mean the number of infections has increased, rather the number is more accurate due to new research methods, and that the higher rates have held steady over the past decade.
It is also estimated that 25% of people infected with AIDS are unaware of their status, and a new program pushing for Americans aged 13 to 64 to be tested has been launched. The program is designed to make each person aware of their status and curb the spread of the disease.
Mr. Richard Wolitski, acting director of the CDC division of HIV/AIDS, said in an open letter, “The estimates from our nation’s new HIV incidence surveillance system reveal that the U.S. epidemic is—and has been—worse than previously estimated and serve as a wake-up call for all Americans.”
He continued, “Many populations at risk are not being reached by our prevention efforts, and much more must be done. For example, recent data indicate that in the past year, 80% of MSM [men who have sex with men] have not been reached by the intensive interventions we know to be most effective. This illustrates one of the many challenges to preventing the spread of this disease—the challenge of reaching new generations while adapting to the evolving epidemic.”
With drugs available that can postpone the onset of AIDS, the cost to the already burdened U.S. health system is enormous. It is estimated that keeping just one person on anti-retroviral drugs costs more than $650,000 over a lifetime.