ATLANTA -- New HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men in some states increased for the third consecutive year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced last week. The CDC also released preliminary 2002 data showing a slight increase in AIDS incidence, although AIDS deaths continue to decline.
Harold Jaffe, MD, director of CDC's National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHSTP), presented the data at the 2003 National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta.
Data from 25 states with long-standing HIV reporting show the number of new HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men increased by 7.1 percent, from 2001 to 2002, supporting recent findings that this population remains at high, and perhaps increasing, risk for HIV infection. HIV diagnoses for gay and bisexual men have increased by 17.7 percent since the lowest point in 1999. The data also show that HIV diagnoses in other vulnerable groups have remained stable since 2001. Jaffe cautioned that the new data reflect the number of people newly diagnosed, regardless of when they were infected, and increases may reflect increases in HIV testing as well as potential increases in new infections.
"These findings add to the growing concern that we are facing a potential resurgence of HIV among gay and bisexual men," Jaffe said.
Jaffe also presented preliminary 2002 data on AIDS diagnoses and deaths in the United States. These data show a 2.2 percent increase in new AIDS diagnoses (42,136 diagnoses) and a 5.9 percent decline in deaths (16,371 deaths). The findings suggest a continuing plateau in the dramatic progress against AIDS following the introduction of highly active anti-retroviral treatment (HAART) in the mid-1990s. The lack of continued progress in reducing AIDS diagnoses is likely due to several factors, Jaffe said, including treatment failure, difficulty adhering to complex regimens, and late HIV diagnoses delaying initiation of treatment.
"The AIDS epidemic in the United States is far from over," Jaffe said. "While effective treatments are crucial in our fight against HIV, preventing infection in the first place is still the only true protection against the serious and fatal consequences of this disease." Jaffe also emphasized that CDC's Advancing HIV Prevention Initiative, focusing on HIV testing as a routine part of care, greater access to HIV testing, increased attention to prevention among people living with HIV, and reduced mother-to-child transmission, will help address these continued challenges.