Only 28% of HIV Patients Have Virus ‘Under Control’

December 12, 2011  |  

HIV may no longer be a death sentence but that doesn’t mean that most people infected with the virus have their condition under control. A CDC report in the Dec. 2 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report showed that only 28% of the 1.2 million people infected with the illness have a suppressed viral load—meaning the patients’ health is improved and their risk of transmitting the virus through sexual activity is dramatically decreased.

The problem, says Victoria Sharp, MD, Director of the Center for Comprehensive Care at St. Luke’s/ Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, is some patients fail to see the need to take their treatment due to the effectiveness of antiviral medication. Taking these medications, in combination with practicing safe sex, can reduce the risk of spreading HIV by 96%, according to recent National Institutes of Health data.

“It’s hard for people to believe” what can happen if the virus is left untreated, Dr. Sharp told American Medical News.

More disturbing is the fact that one in five Americans infected with HIV isn’t aware that he has the condition, and only about half of the people diagnosed with HIV receive ongoing medical care and treatment, according to the CDC.

To help combat the problem, the CDC recommends that doctors increase testing during routine medical visits, testing everyone between the ages of 13 and 64. Researchers found that in 2010, only one in 10 people between the ages of 18 and 64 received a recent HIV test. Although the study’s authors were encouraged that testing percentages were higher in states with a higher prevalence of HIV, they acknowledged that they are far from meeting the national HIV/AIDS strategy’s goal that 90% of people infected with the virus be aware of their condition.

Does your primary care physician or gynecologist recommend that you’re tested for HIV at every visit?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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