New HIV infections in the United States have dropped in recent years, driven largely by decreases among young gay and bisexual men, according to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC estimates that there were about 32,000 new HIV infections in 2021, a 12% drop from 2017.
In the same timeframe, annual infections were cut more than twice as much – down 34% – among gay and bisexual men ages 13 to 24. The decrease in this group accounted for more than half of the overall drop in new infections.
Young White gay and bisexual men saw greater improvements than their Black and Hispanic peers, reflecting broader inequities in HIV prevention and treatment.
Black and Hispanic people represent a disproportionate share of new HIV infections. And while use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) – a preventative treatment – has become more common, CDC estimates suggest relatively few prescriptions were given to Black or Hispanic people in 2021.
Only 11% of Black people who could benefit from PrEP were prescribed it, compared with 20% of Hispanic people and 78% of White people.
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Overall, the CDC estimates that about 1.2 million people in the US have HIV, but about 1 in 8 don’t know they have it. Awareness is especially low among young people, who represented about 15% of new infections in 2021.
“Our nation’s HIV prevention efforts continue to move in the right direction,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. “Longstanding factors, such as systemic inequities, social and economic marginalization and residential segregation, however, stand between highly effective HIV treatment and prevention and people who could benefit from them. Efforts must be accelerated and strengthened for progress to reach all groups faster and equitably.”
The CDC notes that the Covid-19 pandemic affected testing, clinical care services and case surveillance for HIV. There were improvements between 2020 and 2021, but some jurisdictions are taking longer to recover.
“Increasing testing efforts and innovative strategies to reach persons with undiagnosed HIV are needed to offset this diagnosis gap,” according to the CDC report.