Nearly three out of four people in the US with HIV are not getting enough medicine or regular care to stay healthy or prevent themselves from transmitting the virus to others, according to a new study.
The data, released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), show how far the US has to go to curb the 30-year-old domestic epidemic, at a time when Washington is also pouring billions of dollars into leading the fight against HIV/AIDS globally. President Barack Obama is expected to discuss Thursday how the US will intensify that global battle, after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called earlier this month for the use of new science to scale up prevention measures to create an "AIDS-free generation."
Nearly 1.2 million people in the US have HIV, but about 850,000 are not receiving treatment regularly enough to keep the amount of virus in their bodies low enough to stop them from transmitting the virus or hurting their own health, according to the CDC. The number is high largely because 20 percent of people with HIV do not know they are infected, and of those diagnosed, only about half are getting regular care. About 28 percent are estimated to have low enough levels of virus to have their infections under control, the CDC said.
The new science cited by Clinton includes a landmark study published in May proving that AIDS drugs, known as antiretrovirals, can not only restore HIV-infected people to health but also make them far less infectious. The drugs sharply suppress the amount of HIV in the body, leaving less to transmit.
"We know how to control HIV in individuals and increasingly we know how to control it in communities," said CDC Director Thomas Frieden, who added the science has brought "a new optimism" to the field. "We've made real progress but have a lot further to go."
About 50,000 people are newly infected with HIV annually, and the estimated lifetime treatment per person is $367,000. Cutting new infections "could save billions of dollars in health care costs," Frieden said.