This week, I’m in Boston for the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI). It’s one of the premier scientific meetings where we hear the latest research in HIV prevention and treatment. Last year, for example, researchers presented undeniable evidence that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is effective in preventing HIV infection in real-world settings. These findings were a game changer and led to our decision to cite PrEP as one of the four pillars of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020. Just yesterday, researchers highlighted data on the use of a vaginal ring containing PrEP medication, noting that it shows promise for overcoming difficulties with adherence to PrEP.
Today at CROI, our colleagues from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data on viral suppression and new estimates for lifetime risk of HIV diagnosis. The data on viral suppression illustrate solid progress we’ve made over the past years, noting that from 2009 to 2013, the proportion of people receiving HIV care who were virally suppressed increased from 72% to 80%.
For the first time, estimates of lifetime risk of HIV diagnosis were shown by state and risk group. There is some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the analysis found that lifetime risk of HIV diagnosis in the U.S. is now 1 in 99, an improvement from a previous analysis that reported overall risk at 1 in 78.
But, the analysis also underscores the well-known disparities that persist in HIV diagnoses. Without appropriate prevention and intervention efforts, if current HIV diagnosis rates continue, about 1 in 2 Black men who have sex with men (MSM) and 1 in 4 Latino MSM will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime.
We do not take these estimates lightly. And the Administration has already taken steps in our HIV prevention and treatment strategies to prioritize Black and Latino MSM. For example, in the last few years, we have:
The estimates released today are indeed concerning. Our mandate to engage, educate, and care for (and keep in care!) the people most at risk, including Black Americans, Latino Americans, and people living in southern states, is even more pronounced today. HIV does not have to be a death sentence anymore, and we have the tools to stop this epidemic in its tracks and to turn the tide of these recent projections.
President Obama has said that ending the scourge of this disease is within our grasp. It absolutely is. To do so, we must focus on the right people, the right places and the right practices. It will take all of us utilizing the tools we have in the most effective way possible. We need to redouble our efforts and keep a laser focus, especially on those experiencing disparities. But, improving statistics like those released today transcends race, location, and sector. While scientific progress gives us tremendous new tools each year, our collective work to bring them to the people who need them continues. And it will take each of us—each state, each community and each neighborhood—to get there.