New CDC Initiative Would Increase HIV Testing and Enhance Prevention for Persons Living With HIV

ATLANTA -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today announced an initiative aimed at reducing the number of new infections caused by Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) each year in the United States. The new initiative expands on current HIV prevention strategies and it models other approaches that have proven effective in preventing infectious diseases.

The initiative, described in the April 17, 2003 issue of CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), has four parts and will be implemented by several agencies working together within the Department of Health and Human Services. It includes: making HIV testing a routine part of medical care; creating new models for diagnosing HIV infections outside medical settings; preventing new infections by working with people diagnosed with HIV and their partners; and further decreasing mother-to-child HIV transmission by incorporating HIV testing in the routine battery of prenatal tests.

"We can no longer accept the status quo when it comes to HIV/AIDS prevention," said HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. "The nature of this epidemic is changing and it is time to expand our prevention strategies in order to more effectively reduce the number of HIV infections in the United States."

Experts estimate that 850,000 to 950,000 persons are currently living with HIV in the United States and many of these individuals don't know they are infected. In addition, an estimated 300 infants contract HIV from their mothers each year.

"It's simply unacceptable that 40,000 people in this country become infected with HIV each year, and it's intolerable that about one fourth of those infected with HIV don't know they're infected and therefore are not receiving appropriate medical care," said Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH, director of CDC. "This new initiative will go a long way to help frontline clinicians help people overcome some of the barriers they face getting diagnosed and treated for HIV."

Implementing the strategies will require extensive involvement and coordination among a broad range of federal agencies, non-governmental providers and professional organizations. CDC is conducting meetings with state health departments and other partners to introduce the new initiative and the agency will also work with HRSA and other HHS agencies to reach persons who have been diagnosed with HIV but who are not receiving ongoing treatment and preventive care services.

"This new initiative is exciting and it capitalizes on new, rapid testing technologies; provides us the opportunity to reduce barriers to testing; enhances prevention services; and continues to prevent mother-to-child HIV infections," said Harold Jaffe, MD, director of CDC's National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHSTP).

The initiative utilizes the strengths of the public health community and engages clinicians as well. It calls for continued cooperation between the federal government and state and local health departments, and it continues to involve professional associations, individual healthcare professionals, community-based organizations and people living with HIV.

Source: CDC