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CDC releases data on HIV transmission rates in U.S.

The HIV transmission rate in the U.S. has decreased by 89% since 1984 and 33% since 1997.

CDC in a research letter published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes released updated estimates of HIV transmission rates in the U.S., Reuters reports. According to the letter -- written by researchers from CDC and Johns Hopkins University -- the HIV transmission rate in the U.S. has decreased by 89% since 1984 and 33% since 1997. In addition, about 5% or less of people living with the virus will transmit it to another person in any given year, according to the letter (Fox, Reuters, 12/9). The study also found that in 1984, there were 44 transmissions per 100 people with HIV. By 2006, there were just under five transmissions per 100 HIV-positive people (CDC fact sheet, December 2008). David Holtgrave, a researcher at Johns Hopkins who led the study, said, "For every 100 persons living with HIV today, five or fewer will transmit the virus to an uninfected person in a given year."

Richard Woltiski of CDC said the declining transmission figures "really show that people living with HIV are taking steps to be responsible and protect others" and "reflect the success of prevention efforts across the nation." He added that the decreasing transmission rate is most likely the result of a "combination" of HIV prevention efforts that include "HIV testing, prevention programs for people who are living with HIV and those who are at risk for HIV, as well as the effects of HIV treatment that have prolonged the lives of so many people living with HIV." The study was based on the latest CDC data on HIV/AIDS in the U.S. The agency in October announced that 1.1 million people are living with HIV in the U.S., and in August it announced that 56,300 new infections occur annually.

Woltiski said even with the "success" in lower transmission rates, "we cannot forget that new HIV infections are increasing among" men who have sex with men and that "African-Americans and Hispanics continue to experience disproportionate and unacceptably high rates of HIV and AIDS. The fight against HIV is far from over" (Reuters, 12/9).

A CDC fact sheet about HIV transmission rates is available online (.pdf). A Johns Hopkins press release about the study also is available online.