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HIV is Hard to Control

A recent study released by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in Vital signs for December 2011, has reported that in the United States, 75% of patients with HIV do not have their disease under control. This comes as a surprise since HIV drugs have been on the market since 1996. There are more than a million people who are HIV positive in the US and when you consider that most of them have sexual partners, this is over 2 million people who are in danger of spreading the disease. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, “Suppressing the virus decreases the chances it will be transmitted to a sexual partner by more than 95%, treatment is one of the best ways to present the spread of HIV infection.”

There is some question about why there are so many people with HIV that is not being treated. It is estimated that about 20% of those who are infected are not aware that they are infected. These are particularly dangerous since they may not be using protection and are at a greater risk of spreading the disease to their partner or if they are not in a committed relationship, to multiple partners.

Among those who have been diagnosed with the disease, only about half are being treated. One of the main reasons is the cost of treatment. According to the CDC, the cost of treatment will run more than $350,000 over the span of a lifetime.

A new program from the CDC called “Testing Makes Us Stronger” is targeting black gay men and bisexual men in order to get information and help finding free testing to these high risk groups. In order to get control of HIV, the first step is to get tested. Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/Aids, Viral Hepatitis, STD and Tuberculosis, ““Black gay and bisexual men across the country are already doing many of the right things to protect themselves – but more need to make HIV testing a regular part of their lives.”

There are now drugs that control HIV symptoms and to help patients stay healthy longer. For those who receive the diagnosis, it is no longer a death sentence. The fact that only 28% of the people who are infected have it under control should be setting off warning bells. If more people don’t start getting tested and treated, it is inevitable that the number of people infected will rise. There are still more than 16,000 death every year from AIDS. While AIDS may not be the front page news it was 20 years ago, it should be. It is still a serious threat to the health of the United States.