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The XVII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2008)
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New HIV Infection Figures From CDC Underscore Need for National AIDS Strategy for the U.S.

August 2, 2008

The new HIV infection figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) increase the estimate of new HIV infections from 40,000 to 56,000 annually, with a range of 48,200 to 64,500. Derived from laboratory data collected in Illinois and 21 other states in 2006, the higher estimate demonstrates that the HIV infection rate is not falling and may very possibly be increasing significantly.

The new estimates are published in the Aug. 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and will be presented publicly tomorrow at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. The revision also includes a back-calculation revealing that, for the last 15 years, infection rates were approximately 25 to 50 percent higher than the long-held 40,000 annual estimate. This figure is known as incidence, while the overall number of people living with HIV is known as prevalence.

The CDC estimates reveal a steady rise in infections occurring since the early 1990s, with increases primarily among gay men and African Americans.

The revised estimates of new HIV infections occurring in 2006 also reveal that:

  • Male-to-male sexual contact accounted for 53 percent of HIV transmissions

  • African Americans comprised 45 percent of new infections

  • 34 percent of new infections occurred among people ages 13 to 29; with another 31 percent occurring among people ages 30 to 39

  • 73 percent of HIV transmissions occurred among men

"These new estimates paint a soberingly accurate portrait of the AIDS epidemic and reveal an utter lack of investment in prevention research and programs, especially for gay men and African Americans," said Mark Ishaug, president/CEO of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC). "The federal government must commit to speeding up the roll-out of new interventions with urgency. It's deplorable that nearly three decades into the epidemic of our lifetime, the United States still has no comprehensive strategy to prevent HIV transmission, increase access to HIV care, and reduce racial disparities in the epidemic."

AFC director of advocacy Jim Pickett noted that where infection rates for other populations are holding steady or showing slight declines, HIV infections among gay men tragically continue to climb.

"This is a direct result of years of policy and programs that demonize and ignore the sexual health needs of gay men, especially African-American and Latino gay men who bear the brunt of the epidemic in the U.S.," Pickett said. "Gay men of all colors face significant health disparities that directly impact the incidence and prevalence of HIV in their lives. We must prioritize a holistic, asset-based gay men's health agenda that goes well beyond a 'navel to knee' focus. We must also address their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health needs that, when neglected, foster the conditions in which HIV thrives."

"These data give the strongest evidence yet of a escalating public health emergency in Black and Latino communities that sadly began as early as 1987 when HIV infections among Black individuals peaked at an estimated 45,000 infections per year. HIV infections among Latinos that year comprised another 16,000 cases," said Johnathon Briggs, AFC communications director. "While we applaud CDC's 'Heightened National Response to the HIV/AIDS Crisis among African-Americans,' such efforts remain inadequate. Instead, the entire domestic HIV prevention portfolio must be substantially scaled up and programs must prioritize lowering these shameful racial and ethnic disparities."

As a local and national leader in the fight against AIDS, AFC works to prevent new HIV infections among gay men and African Americans through several initiatives that it funds and coordinates in Chicago, including:

  • Project CRYSP, a partnership with the Test Positive Aware Network, the Center on Halsted, and the Howard Brown Health Center that addresses substance use, mental health, and other factors that increase risk for HIV infection among gay men and other men who have sex with men. The project also works to strengthen community assets through community forums, online resources (such as and direct outreach in a holistic and affirming approach to gay men's health.

  • The South Side Women's Collaborative, which sends health outreach educators into beauty salons and other shops that cater to African American and Latino women to educate and refer patrons who might benefit from HIV testing and care.

  • Faith Responds to AIDS, an interfaith coalition working to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in the African-American community. In recognition of the important role the church plays in the African American community, FRA strives to develop and engage a broad interfaith coalition of Chicagoland area leaders, organizations, and faith communities in a committed and effective response to stop HIV/AIDS and its destructive impact on human bodies, spirits, and communities. Last year, FRA developed a toolkit for Black churches that can be found at:

  • International Rectal Microbicides Advocates ( is a global network of more than 600 advocates, policy-makers and leading scientists from 50 countries on six continents forging a robust rectal microbicide research and development agenda to halt the spread of HIV and STDs. AFC is the group's secretariat, providing coordination and support for IRMA.

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This article was provided by AIDS Foundation of Chicago.
See Also
More on U.S. HIV/AIDS Statistics

Please note: Knowledge about HIV changes rapidly. Note the date of this summary's publication, and before treating patients or employing any therapies described in these materials, verify all information independently. If you are a patient, please consult a doctor or other medical professional before acting on any of the information presented in this summary. For a complete listing of our most recent conference coverage, click here.