November 24, 2008
As we pause to reflect on the toll of HIV during this 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day, we must not forget that our fight against this devastating disease is far from over. HIV remains a significant threat to the health and well-being of multiple communities in the United States. The most recent CDC data indicate that more than 1.1 million Americans live with HIV, and that an estimated 56,000 new infections occur in the United States every year.
Several U.S. populations bear the greatest burden of HIV. The impact is most severe for gay and bisexual men, who account for approximately half of new infections and of those living with HIV. Some minority communities are also disproportionately affected by the disease, with African-Americans becoming infected at seven times the rate of whites, and Hispanics at three times the rate of whites.
Despite these challenges, we have seen important signs of progress in fighting HIV with effective prevention measures. The number of annual new infections in the United States, while far too high, has remained roughly stable since the late 1990s. This is despite considerable increases in the number of people living with HIV due to advances in treatment. We have seen substantial declines in mother-to-child transmission and HIV infections among injection drug users and heterosexuals. All of these data suggest that people living with HIV and those who are at-risk are taking steps to protect themselves and their partners, and to help stop the spread of this disease.
But even with this evidence of prevention success, the fight against HIV in this country remains an uphill battle. Data suggest that since the mid-1990s HIV infections have been increasing among gay and bisexual men. While lifesaving advances in AIDS treatment will continue to increase the number of people living with HIV, this will also present more opportunities for transmission. Too many of those who are infected and too many who are at risk are not being reached by proven prevention efforts that can save lives. And too many Americans remain unaware they are infected.
As a global leader in the fight to end the HIV epidemic, CDC will continue to pursue a comprehensive prevention strategy. We know that prevention works, but we also know that prevention messages and programs have not reached all who need them. Our focus remains in four critical areas: increasing routine HIV testing for all Americans aged 13-64; ensuring that our prevention programs are effective, available and expertly delivered; further improving our ability to monitor HIV risk and the course of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and its impact; and developing new biomedical, behavioral, and structural approaches to HIV prevention.
On this World AIDS Day, we are all reminded that we must do more -- as individuals, as communities and as a nation -- to stop HIV/AIDS. We must relieve the burden of HIV in African-American and Hispanic communities by reaching them with effective prevention programs. We must confront the complex issues that keep gay and bisexual men at risk. We must arm our youth with the knowledge, skills and confidence to prevent HIV throughout their lives. Above all, we must not give up until this fight is won.
To find out more about HIV/AIDS in the United States, go to www.cdc.gov/hiv or www.aids.gov. To find out where you can receive a confidential HIV test, visit www.hivtest.org, or call 800-CDC-INFO, a 24-hour hotline available in both English and Spanish.