CDC: U.S. HIV/AIDS Infection Underestimated by 40 Percent

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released shocking new numbers on Sunday at the start of a Mexican conference on AIDS and HIV that painted a much bleaker picture of the epidemic in the United States and revealed that new cases are rising fastest among gay and bisexual men (Peter Staley has posted an informative graph):

Hiv“About 56,300 people are now thought to be infected with HIV annually—a startling 40 percent jump from the government’s previous estimate of 40,000. The new figures represent improved assessments, not evidence that infection rates are going up, officials said. But the news had AIDS advocacy groups in Chicago calling for additional funding to combat the outbreak among gay men and African-Americans, among whom cases of infection are increasing fastest, the study shows. Advocates also called for a national strategy to combat the epidemic. The new numbers, compiled in 2006, were derived from a sophisticated blood test that determines when a patient was infected. Previous studies depended on a medical diagnosis that did not give the time frame of infection, making it difficult to compile yearly data.”

Additionally, “New cases are rising fastest among gay and bisexual men, according to the report, representing about 53 percent of the infections. African-Americans represent about 45 percent of the cases. About 60 percent of the victims are younger than 40, and 73 percent are men.”

The CDC has had the new data for almost a year but said it was undergoing peer review.

ObamaBarack Obama responded to the new data, releasing a statement which read, in part:

“These new figures should bring new focus to our efforts to address AIDS and HIV here at home. As president, I am committed to developing a National AIDS Strategy to decrease new HIV infections and improve health outcomes for Americans living with HIV/AIDS. Across the nation, we also need to prevent the spread of HIV and get people into treatment by expanding access to testing and comprehensive education programs. This report also demonstrates the need for more timely data about HIV transmission so that we can effectively evaluate prevention efforts. Combating HIV/AIDS also demands closing the gaps in opportunity that exist in our society so that we can strengthen our public health. We must also overcome the stigma that surrounds HIV/AIDS – a stigma that is too often tied to homophobia. We need to encourage folks to get tested and accelerate HIV/AIDS research toward an effective cure because we have a moral obligation to join together to meet this challenge, and to do so with the urgency this epidemic demands.”

McCain released a statement as well: “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday announced that in 2006 there were 56,300 new HIV infections in United States — significantly higher than the previous estimate of 40,000 cases. More than a million Americans live with this devastating disease. As President, I will work closely with non-profit, government, and private sector stakeholders to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS. By focusing efforts on reducing drug costs through greater market competition, promoting prevention efforts, encouraging testing, targeting communities with high infection rates, strengthening research and reducing disparities through effective public outreach, we as a nation can make great progress in fighting HIV/AIDS.”

The XVII International AIDS Conference takes place from August 3 till August 8.

AIDS epidemic in U.S. ‘worse than previously known’ [chicago tribune]