I plan to do a series of posts on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S. This is an important year for HIV/AIDS – 2011 marks the 30th year since it was first discovered. Also, I’ve spoken with a few people who believe that the public perception about the disease is that it is now more of a chronic condition. With the ‘success’ of celebrities that are living successful lives after diagnoses (Read: Magic Johnson), there is the false belief that HIV/AIDS is not as much of a public health threat as it was in the eighties and nineties. Unfortunately, HIV/AIDS has worsened as an epidemic. According to the CDC, it is estimated that 1.1 million people are living with HIV in the U.S. and as many as 1 in 5 adults don’t know they are infected. About 55% of adults aged 18-64 have never been tested for HIV. Among those that are highest affected:
- Young people aged 18-24 have similar rates of HIV infection as other age groups, yet they are less likely to have even been tested for HIV.
- African Americans (AA) made up more than half of people found to have HIV in 2008. Yes, only about 3 in 5 AAs reported that they have ever been tested.
- Gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men (MSM) are at high risk of getting HIV. They made up more than 55% of the people found to have HIV in 2008 in the U.S.
Again, this is a conversation that is deserving of more than one blog post. This was admittedly a quick overview of an issue that has many structural, cultural, and financial barriers and implications. Let’s be sure to stay on top of this.
In ground-breaking news (and the purpose of this post), researchers are closer to identifying a vaccine for HIV/AIDS transmission. Yes, you read that right. A vaccine – like the kind that you obtain for preventing the flu. A recent study (November 2010) of 2500 MSMs found that sexually active MSM who took a once-daily pill were 44% less likely to become infected with HIV, compared with participants that took a placebo (a pill with no medicine). This is very promising. It is a bit unclear whether the vaccine can be used by heterosexuals or if it is targeted towards gay men. More info on the PrEP vaccine can be found here at the AIDS.gov blog.