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U.S. HIV Infection Decline, But Not Across All Racial Groups: Unpacking the CDC Report

A Decline in New HIV Infections

The U.S. has witnessed a modest decline in new HIV infections, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, the nation is far from reaching its goal of ending the epidemic. The CDC report highlights that the majority of people at high risk of the virus are not receiving key medications to prevent infection, revealing deep racial disparities in access to treatment.

Disparities in HIV treatment and prevention Source CDC

The Current State of HIV Infections

The report indicates that HIV infections declined by 12% from 36,500 in 2017 to about 32,100 in 2021. This decline was primarily driven by a 34% drop in new HIV infections among 13- to 24-year-olds. Despite this progress, the U.S. is not on track to meet its national goal of reducing new infections by 90% by 2030 if progress continues at the current pace.

High-Risk Groups and Racial Disparities

The report also highlights that gay and bisexual men, as well as Black and Hispanic communities, face a higher risk of infection due to factors such as racism, economic inequality, social marginalization, and residential segregation. For instance, about 40% of new infections within the gay community were among Black men, and 35% were among Hispanic men.

The Issue of Treatment Disparities

Furthermore, the report reveals stark disparities in treatment. Only 30% of the 1.2 million people who faced the highest risk of HIV in 2021 took drugs to prevent infection, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). However, only 11% of Black people and 21% of Hispanics at risk of HIV infection received PrEP in 2021, compared to 78% of white people at risk.

CDC’s Response and Future Challenges

The CDC is launching a campaign in the South focused on Black and Hispanic gay and bisexual men to help close the gap on PrEP coverage. However, access to PrEP is threatened by a recent ruling that struck down an Obamacare requirement that most private insurance plans cover the medication.

In conclusion, while the U.S. has seen a decline in new HIV infections, there is still much work to be done to address racial disparities in treatment and to reach the national goal of ending the HIV epidemic.