- Democratic presidential candidate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, proposed a plan to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic that emphasizes the accessibility of medications to at-risk populations.
- HIV/AIDS, which first appeared in the U.S. in 1981, is spreading less rapidly, but still affects 1.1 million people, with 38,000 new cases diagnosed in 2017.
- Estimates suggest 1 in 7 people with HIV don’t know they have the infection. Four out of 10 new HIV cases are transmitted by people who aren’t aware they’re infected.
- A preventative medication, PrEP, can protect at-risk populations.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
Democratic presidential candidate and California Sen. Kamala Harris introduced a plan last week to make preventative HIV drugs free to people with insurance, Politico reported. Although Harris isn’t the only democratic candidate to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic, her proposal emphasizes the accessibility of medications to people at risk.
Known as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), the drug has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection by 92% when taken consistently, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although HIV is spreading less rapidly than it used to, it continues to be a problem, especially for marginalized groups like black and Latinx communities, and the gay community. In 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, 38,000 new cases of HIV were diagnosed. About 5,700 people died in 2017 from the disease.
In honor of National HIV Testing Day Thursday, here are some facts and demographic maps about HIV and PrEP in the U.S. The maps come from AIDSVu, a project of Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health in partnership with Gilead Sciences, Inc.
Nearly half of all new HIV infections are transmitted by people who don’t know they have it
More than a million people in the U.S. have HIV, according to government data, and about 1 in 7 people have no idea they’re infected. The CDC estimates that 4 out of 10 new cases of HIV are transmitted by people who aren’t aware of their status.
More than 80% of new cases are diagnosed in men, who are less likely than women to get tested, according to data.
The CDC recommends that people between 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once. To find HIV/AIDS resources near you, check out this interactive map from AIDSVu.
Areas most in need of HIV prevention, such as the South, have disproportionately low rates of PrEP use
Although more than half of new HIV cases every year occur in the Southern U.S., only a third of the nation’s PrEP users live in that region.
“In Southern states poverty, racism, and lack of access to health care, all go hand-in-hand and gravely impact the HIV epidemic,” said Nicole Roebuck, executive director for AID Atlanta, in a Q&A with AIDSVu. She added that programs that target intersections of identity, such as the Men’s Engagement Network’s program for black gay men, are key to getting HIV testing, medication, and treatment to at-risk populations.
Half of the PrEP users in the U.S. are concentrated in just five states: New York, California, Florida, Texas, and Illinois.
Overall, the rate of new HIV cases is declining, but there’s room for improvement
Since 2008, the number of new HIV cases annually has decreased by 21%. Meanwhile, the number of PrEP users is on the rise, and has been since 2012. From 2017 to 2018, PrEP use increased by 29%.
But there’s still room for improvement. In her proposed legislation, Harris estimated that only 1 in 7 Americans who could benefit from PrEP (including high-risk populations like partners of people with HIV) have a prescription.
Getting tested, and having open, honest conversations with partners about HIV status, is crucial to getting appropriate preventative care or treatment.
“It’s very important to know where you stand,” Roebuck said in the AIDSVu Q&A. “You might not be ready and that’s okay. You might be ready to start taking medication and get linked directly into care. Just knowing your status is key. Know where you stand.”