CDC launches campaign to increase HIV testing so more can access needed care
November 29, 2011
- Nearly 3 out of 4 Americans living with HIV do not have their infection under control, according to a Vital Signs
report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released today in advance of World AIDS Day, December 1. The
authors say the low percentage is because 1 in 5 people with HIV do not realize they are infected and, of those
who are aware, only 51 percent receive ongoing medical care and treatment.
Of the nearly 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States, only an estimated 28 percent have
a suppressed viral load (defined as viral load less than 200 copies of the blood-borne virus per milliliter of
blood) - meaning that the virus is under control and at a level that helps keep them healthy and reduces the
risk of transmitting the virus to others.
However, of those living with HIV who are in ongoing care and on antiretroviral treatment, 77 percent
have suppressed levels of the virus. Effective HIV treatment and care benefit infected individuals by improving
their health, and are also important for HIV prevention. Results from a recent study of heterosexual couples
from the National Institutes of Health showed that consistently taking antiretroviral therapy, in
combination with safer behaviors, can reduce the risk of spreading HIV by approximately 96 percent.
"While we have known that viral suppression can be achieved with proper HIV treatment and care, today's new Vital
Signs data highlight the challenges our country faces in keeping HIV-positive Americans in the care they need to control the
virus," said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "By improving testing, linkage to care and treatment
services, we can help people living with HIV feel better and live longer, and can reduce the spread of HIV
dramatically. This is not just an individual responsibility, but a responsibility for families, partners,
communities and health care providers."
Men who have sex with men (MSM), the population most severely affected by HIV in the United States, are least likely to know they
are infected and less likely to receive prevention counseling (39 percent, compared with 50 percent of men who have sex with women
and women who have sex with men).
Study authors underscore that improvements are needed at each stage in the overall process of treatment and care. That means
increasing the number of infected Americans who are tested, linked to care, remain in care, receive prevention counseling and
are successfully treated - all to achieve viral suppression.
"Closing the gaps in testing, access to care and treatment will all be essential to slowing the U.S. HIV epidemic," said
Jonathan Mermin, M.D., director of CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. "HIV testing is the most important first step toward
breaking the cycle of transmission. Combined with effective prevention services, linkage to care and ongoing effective treatment,
testing provides a gateway to the most effective prevention tools at our disposal."
New campaign encourages black gay and bisexual men to get tested for HIV
To increase HIV testing rates among one of the populations most affected by HIV, black gay and bisexual men, CDC also
launched a new national awareness campaign, Testing Makes Us Stronger. CDC collaborated with gay and bisexual community leaders,
physicians and other experts to develop the campaign, which strives to raise awareness, improve access and increase the number
of black gay and bisexual men who are aware of their HIV status: the first step to care, treatment and prevention services.
Testing Makes Us Stronger encourages men to "stay strong and informed." The ads depict a diverse range of
black gay men, including individuals and couples. The campaign includes national print and online advertising; a dedicated
website and Facebook page; promotion at black gay pride events; and outdoor and transit advertising in gay and
African-American neighborhoods in six cities where black gay and bisexual men are heavily affected by
HIV - Atlanta, Baltimore, Houston, New York City, Oakland, Calif., and Washington, D.C.
"Black gay and bisexual men across the country are already doing many of the right things to protect
themselves - but more need to make HIV testing a regular part of their lives," said Kevin Fenton, M.D., director
of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and Tuberculosis Prevention. "Testing Makes Us
Stronger was designed by black gay men for black gay men and strives to communicate the power of knowing your
HIV status as a first step toward staying healthy."
Research shows that black gay and bisexual men do not engage in riskier behaviors than other gay men, but are at
higher risk for HIV due to the high prevalence of HIV that already exists in many black and gay communities, increasing the
likelihood of becoming infected with each sexual encounter.
In addition to increasing testing and ensuring that people with HIV remain in care, CDC scientists stress that proven
approaches to risk reduction - such as consistent condom use and reducing the number of sexual partners - among uninfected
individuals will also remain critical. In part, because of the substantial amount of HIV transmission that occurs during
the early stages of HIV infection, well before diagnosis and treatment can occur.
Testing Makes Us Stronger is the latest campaign of Act Against AIDS, CDC's umbrella campaign to fight complacency
about HIV nationwide. Other Act Against AIDS campaigns include those which focus on African-American women, African-American
youth, health care providers and the general public.
More information about the new statistics on viral suppression and Testing Makes Us Stronger is available at www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom .
CDC works 24/7 saving lives, protecting people from health threats and saving
money to have a more secure nation. Whether these threats are chronic or acute, manmade or natural, human error or deliberate
attack, global or domestic, CDC is the U.S. health protection agency.
Vital Signs is a CDC report that appears on the first Tuesday of the month as part
of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, or MMWR . The report provides
the latest data and information on key health indicators, such as cancer prevention, obesity, tobacco use, motor vehicle
passenger safety, prescription drug overdose, HIV/AIDS, alcohol use, health care-associated infections, cardiovascular
health, teen pregnancy, asthma and food safety.
CDC Division of News and Electronic Media - News Media Line,
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)