People Living Longer With HIV

Effective Drugs, Prevention Efforts, and Educational Programs Helping to Reduce Infections

From the WebMD Archives

June 2, 2011 -- The number of people living with HIV continues to rise. That’s mainly because of highly effective drugs that allow people infected with HIV to live longer, healthier lives, the CDC says.

But another reason is that prevention efforts and educational programs have helped reduce infections, CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, says in a news release. That news release, dated June 2, 2011, marks 30 years since the first report of the illness that came to be known as AIDS was published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

The CDC says in its MMWR dated June 3 that highly active antiretroviral therapy is effective and that the death rate of people infected with HIV has declined dramatically over the past two decades.

But the AIDS crisis is not over, and Frieden says more resolve is needed to end this epidemic.

HIV/AIDS Still Infecting and Killing People

The new report says that every year about 50,000 U.S. residents are infected with HIV. Half of the newly infected are men who have sex with men. And nearly half are African-American.

In the latest MMWR, CDC researchers say 1.17 million people in the United States are living with the virus and about 20% do not know they are infected.

Among key findings:

  • In the first 14 years after the first cases of AIDS were reported in the U.S. in 1981, sharp increases were reported in the number of new AIDS diagnoses and deaths among people 13 and over.
  • In 1992, the CDC says there were 75,457 new AIDS diagnoses, compared to 318 in 1981, and that deaths caused by the disease reached 50,628 in 1995, compared to 451 in 1981.
  • CDC researchers say AIDS diagnoses dropped 45% between 1993 and 1998, from 75,263 to 41,462. AIDS deaths dropped 63% from 1995 to 1998, from 50,628 to 18,851.
  • Between 1999 and 2008, AIDS diagnoses remained stable at an average of 38,279 per year. Deaths caused by AIDS averaged 17,489 per year during that time period.
  • The CDC estimates that 594,496 people have died from AIDS since 1981.


According to the CDC, at the end of 2008, 75% of people living with HIV were men, and 65.7% of them were men who have sex with men.

HIV prevalence rates among African-Americans were about eight times that of whites. HIV prevalence rates for Hispanics or Latinos were about 2.5 times that of whites.

Among other key findings:

  • People between ages 13 and 24 have the highest percentage of undiagnosed HIV, at 58.9%, compared to 31.5% for people aged 25-34, 18% among people 34-44, 13.8% for people 45-54, 11.9% for people 55-64, and 10.7% among people 65 and older.
  • Greater percentages of undiagnosed HIV also were found among men with high-risk heterosexual contact, 25%, and men who have sex with men, 22.1%, than in other categories.
  • Greater percentages of undiagnosed HIV also were observed among Asians or Pacific Islanders at 26% and American Indians or Alaska Natives at 25% than among African-Americans at 21.4%, whites at 18.5%, and Hispanics or Latinos at 18.9%.

HIV Infection

Testing can now detect HIV as early as nine days after infection.

Highly active antiretroviral therapy has been effective in allowing people to live longer with HIV.

However, late diagnosis is all too common. In 2008, the CDC says 33% of newly diagnosed HIV cases developed AIDS within a year. These people were likely infected with HIV 10 years prior to the diagnosis, on average. During this time period, they missed opportunities for medical care.

Frieden says in the news release that far too many Americans still underestimate their risk of infection or think HIV is no longer a serious health threat. But he says it is imperative that Americans understand that HIV is incurable and that most infections today are occurring among people under 30, a generation “that has never known a time without effective HIV treatments and who may not fully understand the significant health threat HIV poses.”

He says that advances in HIV prevention hold promise for reducing new infection.

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on June 02, 2011



Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, June 3, 2011; vol 60.

News release, CDC.

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