HIV infections fall over last decade, progress uneven

U.S. Loses Ground Against AIDS - Report

(Reuters Health) -- The rate of new HIV infections in the U.S. fell over the last decade, but progress wasn't equal for all groups, according to a new government report.

Across the country, new diagnoses of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, fell by about 20 percent between 2005 and 2014. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says gay and bisexual men and people living in the South didn't see the same benefit.

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"There is uneven progress and ongoing severe disparities," said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, who is director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention at the CDC in Atlanta.

For example, he told Reuters Health by phone, in 2014, about 70 percent of new diagnoses of HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, were among men who have sex with men -- including those who inject drugs.

Over the last decade, new HIV infections increased by 24 percent among Latino gay and bisexual men but fell by 18 percent among their white counterparts.

Jennifer Kates, director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington, D.C., told Reuters Health it's important for people to know if they're infected, because they can protect their own health and that of others by getting treatment quickly.

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She said people in the south face a "perfect storm" of problems with healthcare access and broader socioeconomic issues, including stigma and discrimination, poverty, lower education levels, greater numbers of uninsured, and higher rates of non-HIV sexually transmitted infections.

"These data tell us there is hope for making a bigger difference in the epidemic, but we need to provide access and treatment to those who remain at greatest risk," Mermin said.

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