He went on to discuss the issue of time between infection and diagnosis. “Far too many people live with HIV for far too long before receiving a diagnosis.” In fact, a quarter of individuals who were diagnosed with the virus in 2015 had been living with the virus for approximately 7 years without knowing they were infected.
Without increased testing, individuals will continue to live unaware of their status, which will, in turn, delay them from receiving treatment, and increase the risk that they can transmit the virus to someone else. Without treatment, HIV can develop into AIDS and be fatal. With treatment, individuals can decrease their viral loads to undetectable levels
, making it less likely they will transmit the virus to someone else.
The CDC officials also said that the time between infection and diagnosis varied for heterosexual males and women of all sexual orientations, as well as for groups of different races or ethnicities.
For example, the median time between infection and diagnosis was 5 years for heterosexual males and 2 and a half years for women. Dr. Mermin offered a possible explanation for this difference, stating, “Women appear more comfortable with the health care system, and thus, tend to go [to a doctor] more frequently. They are also screened for diseases when they’re pregnant.” Because of these reasons, they tend to receive diagnosis earlier.
Regarding the differences between races and ethnicities, the CDC reported that the time between infection and diagnosis for Asian Americans is an estimated median of 4 years, while the median time for African Americans and Latinos is estimated to be 3 years. White Americans showed a median of 2 years. Although an explanation was not offered on the call, previous reports postulate that these gaps are the result of the stigma surrounding the virus
, prompting individuals in these groups to bypass testing.
“We must close the gap between HIV infection and diagnosis in order to end our nation’s epidemic,” Eugene McCray, MD, director of the CDC’s division of HIV/AIDS Prevention stressed. “CDC is working to make this happen through educating the public and health care providers on the epidemic.” By increasing HIV testing, the hope is that the treatment gaps can be closed, and the virus can be stopped throughout the country.
“HIV testing works,” he stressed. “Getting more HIV infections diagnosed, and more people receiving needed treatment is crucial [in the fight against HIV].”
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