Few With HIV Have Controlled Virus

CDC HIV AIDS report finds gaps in testing and treatment

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Today, HIV patients are expected to live to an old age, with the right drugs and treatment. But a new report has found that many Americans with HIV aren't on that track.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that only 28 percent of Americans infected with HIV have their condition under control.

A “suppressed” viral load – meaning, an undetectable amount of the virus is in the blood – means that the patient is healthy, and has a lower risk of transmitting the virus to others.

But these statistics reveal that the majority of Americans with HIV are not getting the continuous treatment they need, or that they haven't even been diagnosed with the disease.

"Get tested for HIV. If you're infected, stay in treatment."

The CDC report was published in the Center's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report, and focused on how many Americans have HIV, percentages of those infected receiving medications, and how many were considered healthy, as well as HIV prevention efforts.

The study concluded that most people had access to HIV testing and care. But the numbers of those infected who remained in care, get healthy, and receive prevention counseling were concerning.

The CDC estimates that in 2008, 1.2 million Americans were living with HIV. But only 41 percent of those infected are both aware of their condition and receive ongoing treatment. That accounts, in large part, for the statistic that only 28 percent of Americans have their condition under control.

Antiretroviral (ART) drugs, usually taken as a “cocktail” of at least three anti-HIV medications, has made it possible for HIV patients to stop the virus from developing into full-blown AIDS. But ART can be so effective that many people don't recognize the need for ongoing treatment, according to Dr. Victoria Sharp, director of the HIV/AIDS clinic at St. Luke's/ Roosevelt Hospital in New York.

Every year, 50,000 people in the U.S. are newly infected with HIV, and 16,000 people die of AIDS, according to the CDC. Certain populations are at higher risk for infection and morbidity than others.

For example, minority populations such as African Americans and Hispanics were less likely to be diagnosed and be virally suppressed than whites. Men who have sex with men (MSM) are among the highest-risk groups for HIV infection and transmission.

The CDC report emphasized the importance of prevention counseling to reduce HIV transmission. Only 30 percent of MSM received this type of counseling in their treatment. And for those who have been diagnosed, the CDC encouraged physicians to explain that it is a chronic condition that requires lifelong treatment. Even if viral suppression has been achieved, treatment should not be abandoned, because the virus can come back.

The report was published in December 2011.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 29, 2011
Last Updated:
December 16, 2013