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Increased Number of HIV-Positive MSM Being Tested Annually but Needs for Ancillary Services Going Unmet

SEP 29, 2016 | KRISTI ROSA
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) continues to be a public health problem as more than 1.2 million people are living with the infection in the United States. The actual number of those infected could be even higher as about 1 out of 8 people are not aware that they are infected. These data make testing for HIV infection important for sexually active individuals, and even more so for those individuals who are at a higher risk for infection, such as men who have sex with men (MSM). MSM are most affected by the virus, and if left undiagnosed and untreated, the infection can lead to serious health implications.
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently shared two reports that specifically focus on MSM living with HIV in the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).
The first report provides a close examination of HIV incidence surveillance data supplied by the CDC’s National HIV Surveillance System (NHSS) that was taken from MSM over 13 years of age between 2007 and 2013 in 21 different US jurisdictions. Using this data, the CDC sought to find how many of these men had previously been tested for HIV and if they are getting tested as frequently as the CDC recommends (annually).
The researchers found that 16,788 MSM over the age of 13 years had been diagnosed in 2007 and 15,951 had been diagnosed in 2013. They witnessed an increase in the number of MSM who had previously been tested before diagnosis, with 51% of MSM tested in 2007 and 69% in 2013. In those who had been previously tested, they noted a “significant” increase in the percentage of MSM who had previously tested negative for the virus: 70% in 2007 to 74% in 2013, according to the report.
Taking this a step further, the researchers teased out the data to look into specific race/ethnicity or age trends to understand any testing patterns. In terms of the different races in the study group, all experienced “significant” increases in the number of MSM who went for testing: 64% to 73% for black MSM, 75%-77% for white MSM, and 73% to 77% for “other races.” When looking at the data pertaining to age groups, the researchers reported “significant increases” in testing within the time frame for all age groups of MSM, except for those over 55 years of age.
According to the report, “The trend in the percentage of those with a negative test < 12 months before diagnosis increased overall from 48% in 2007 to 56% in 2013.” This notable increase in percentage indicates that MSM might be going for annual testing as had been recommended by the CDC in 2006. Annual testing can provide earlier diagnoses of the virus which might reduce the risk of transmission to others.

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