THE WASHINGTON TIMES
An estimated 154,000 people with HIV in the U.S. were unaware they had the sexually transmitted disease and, therefore, didn’t seek treatment to suppress the virus and prevent its spread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.
That equates to about 14% of Americans living with the immunodeficiency virus in 2017, the CDC report shows, and progress in reducing the number of new HIV infections has stalled in recent years.
“It [the report] shows that HIV testing, treatment and prevention have not reached enough Americans and emphasizes the continued urgent need to increase these interventions,” Dr. Jay Butler, the CDC’s deputy director of infectious diseases, said Tuesday during a press briefing.
Dr. Eugene McCray, the CDC’s director of the division of HIV/AIDS prevention, said the 14% of people who didn’t get an HIV diagnosis couldn’t take advantage of medication to help them stay healthy and prevent transmission to others.
People ages 13 to 24 years old were less likely to know their HIV status than those 25 years and older. Only 63% of those who knew they had HIV were receiving treatment to control the virus.
Between 2013 and 2017, the number of new HIV infections in the U.S. has hovered around 38,000 each year.
“The number of people who acquire HIV each year is unacceptably high and is at a standstill,” Dr. McCray said Tuesday. “These findings underscore the urgent need to rapidly scale up HIV testing, treatment and PrEP [pre-exposure prophylaxis].”
To help reduce the number of new HIV infections, the Department of Health and Human Services launched a national program Tuesday that provides free daily medications to prevent HIV, called PrEP, to victims without prescription drug insurance coverage.
The Ready, Set, PrEP program is part of America’s plan to end the HIV epidemic, which strives to reduce the number of new HIV infections in the U.S. by 75% in five years and by 90% in 10 years.
“Thanks to Ready, Set, PrEP, thousands of Americans who are at risk for HIV will now be able to protect themselves and their communities,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II said in a statement.
Of the 1.2 million Americans who could benefit from PrEP, about 18% received a prescription for the medication last year, according to the CDC. PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of new infections by up to 97% if taken consistently.
To qualify for Ready, Set, PrEP, people must test negative for HIV, have a valid prescription for the HIV medications and lack prescription drug coverage. People can find out their eligibility by calling (855) 447-8410 or visiting GetYourPrEP.com.
Drugmaker Gilead Sciences Inc. sells the only two brands of PrEP approved in the U.S. — Truvada and Descovy. The company has agreed to donate enough of its HIV prevention medicines for up to 200,000 people each year for 11 years.
The deal between HHS and Gilead provides medication to treat uninsured people at risk for HIV and will run until at least Dec. 31, 2025, and possibly extend through to Dec. 31, 2030.
A less expensive, generic version of Truvada is anticipated to enter the market next fall. A month’s worth supply of PrEP medications can cost about $2,000 without insurance.
New York City officials announced Monday that the city had achieved early its global milestone in the fight to end the HIV epidemic, meeting the UNAIDS 90-90-90 goals and making it the first “fast-track city” in the U.S. to reach the target.
The 90-90-90 goals translate to 90% of all people with HIV knowing their status, 90% of all people living with HIV receiving treatment and 90% of those diagnosed with HIV who are on treatment being virally suppressed.
As of last year, 93% of people with HIV in New York City have been diagnosed, 90% of people with HIV are on treatment and 92% of people on treatment are virally suppressed.
HHS has provided funding to allow three communities — Baltimore; DeKalb County, Georgia; and East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana — to test key parts of the national initiative that aims to end the HIV epidemic.
Forty-eight counties, the District of Columbia and San Juan, Puerto Rico, were home to more than 50% of new HIV diagnoses in 2016 and 2017.
President Trump proposed $291 million in the next year’s HHS budget to jump-start the multiyear initiative to end the HIV epidemic in the U.S. by 2030.
⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.