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U.S. HIV infections drop, yet most at-risk persons are not taking preventative medicines


The recent data published by the CDC paints a mixed picture of the HIV epidemic in the United States. On one hand, there has been a modest decline in new HIV infections over a four-year period, with a notable drop among 13- to 24-year-olds. However, the nation is still far from reaching its goal of ending the epidemic, as progress is not on track to meet the ambitious target of reducing new infections by 90% by 2030.

One of the key issues highlighted in the report is the deep racial disparities in access to HIV prevention and treatment. The majority of individuals at high risk of HIV infection, particularly within Black and Hispanic communities, are not receiving essential medications to prevent the virus. This disparity is attributed to systemic factors such as racism, economic inequality, social marginalization, and residential segregation.

Efforts to increase the uptake of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a preventive medication, face significant challenges due to these disparities. While there has been an increase in the percentage of at-risk individuals taking PrEP, racial disparities persist. Black and Hispanic populations have lower rates of PrEP usage compared to their white counterparts.

To address these disparities, the CDC is launching a campaign in the South focused on Black and Hispanic gay and bisexual men. However, access to PrEP is threatened by recent legal rulings impacting insurance coverage for the medication.

To combat the HIV epidemic effectively, it is crucial to not only increase access to prevention and treatment but also ensure widespread testing and viral suppression. Currently, a significant number of people living with HIV are unaware of their status, and racial disparities persist in achieving viral suppression through treatment.

President Biden’s call for increased funding to support efforts to end the HIV epidemic, including a national PrEP program, is a step in the right direction. However, concerted efforts are needed to address the systemic issues and racial disparities that hinder progress in combating HIV in the United States.

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