HIV Patients Not Receiving Regular Care

Many HIV patients were not receiving ongoing care and treatment, and some did not know they had the disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) With new medications and treatments, HIV therapy has dramatically improved over the past two decades. Many with the virus, however, may not be getting proper treatment.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the majority of those diagnosed with HIV in 2011 were not getting ongoing care and treatment — and many with HIV were not being diagnosed at all.

“Key to controlling the nation’s HIV epidemic is helping people with HIV get connected to — and stay in — care and treatment, to suppress the virus, live longer and help protect others,” said Tom R. Frieden, MD, CDC Director, in a press release.

The introduction of antiretroviral medication in 1996 helped to control the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic. HIV can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Without treatment, people with AIDS typically survive three years, according to

Proper HIV treatment has been shown to drastically reduce transmission. Therapy has also let patients live longer, healthier lives.

This study was conducted by Heather Bradley, PhD, of the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, and colleagues.

These researchers reviewed data reported to the National HIV Surveillance System (NHSS) to estimate the number of patients living with diagnosed and undiagnosed HIV in the US by the end of 2011. They also looked at information from the CDC’s Medical Monitoring Project. This was created to learn more about the experiences and needs of people receiving care for HIV.

Dr. Bradley and colleagues calculated that of the 1.2 million Americans who were living with HIV in 2011, over two-thirds of them had not achieved viral suppression (when the virus has been reduced to undetectable levels by medication). Of these people who had not achieved viral suppression, two-thirds of them had been diagnosed but were not engaged in regular HIV care, and 20 percent of them did not yet know they were infected.

A combination of antiretroviral medications has been shown to suppress HIV, keeping it at low levels in the body. These treatments target retroviruses (such as HIV). If patients took only one antiretroviral medication, HIV would quickly become resistant to it and the medication would stop working, reported AVERT, an international AIDS and HIV charity.

Sexual transmission of HIV may be reduced by as much as 96 percent with antiretroviral therapy, Dr. Bradley and team noted.

Dr. Bradley and colleagues noted that younger HIV patients were less likely to have the virus under control than older patients. Among HIV patients, virus suppression was achieved by 13 percent of those ages 18 to 24, 23 percent of those ages 25 to 34 and 27 percent of those ages 35 to 44. These rates kept improving with age. Among those who were 65 or older, 37 percent achieved virus suppression.

These researchers found that more than half of people with HIV between the ages of 18 and 24 (51 percent) did not know they had HIV. Dr. Bradley and team said that this underscored the need for HIV testing — especially among young adults.

The CDC said that getting an HIV test is the first step to identifying HIV infection and crucial for both treatment and prevention.

This report was published Nov. 25 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Dr. Bradley and team disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.


Review Date: 
November 28, 2014
Last Updated:
December 1, 2014