February 28, 2005
Study lead author Geraldine McQuillan, a researcher at CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, said, "It is a disturbing trend," adding, "If anything, the findings are an underestimate" of the gap in HIV prevalence between blacks and whites (Washington Post, 2/26). The findings likely underestimate actual HIV prevalence rates in the United States because they do not account for HIV infection in the prison population or among the homeless, health officials said (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 2/26). However, McQuillan said, "Since we are not seeing increases in [the] youngest age groups, you feel comforted that prevention messages are at least being heard" (Reuters, 2/25). Terje Anderson, director of the National Association of People with AIDS, said, "It's incredibly disappointing. We just have a burgeoning epidemic in the African-American community that is not being dealt with effectively." Dr. Susan Buchbinder, director of HIV research for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said, "I think it's very concerning. I think what we need to look at is how we can reduce these rates and get more people into treatment." She recommended that officials focus more on treating drug addiction (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 2/26).
In related news, a separate CDC study presented at the conference Friday estimated that roughly 55% of HIV-positive U.S. residents for whom antiretroviral treatment is clinically recommended were receiving therapy in 2003, the Post (Washington Post, 2/26). National data analyzed by CDC showed that an estimated 480,000 HIV-positive U.S. residents ages 15 to 49 were eligible for treatment in 2003, but only 268,000 were receiving treatment (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 2/26). Federal guidelines recommend initiation of antiretroviral therapy when CD4+ T cell counts fall below 350 cells per microliter of blood (CDC release, 2/25). Of those who were not receiving treatment, an estimated 42% did not know they were HIV-positive, according to CDC. The remainder knew they were HIV-positive but were not under medical care or were in care but did not want or have access to antiretroviral therapy (Washington Post, 2/26). The findings indicate "a large unmet need for antiretroviral treatment and provide the clearest picture to date of the scope of the problem nationally," according to a CDC release (CDC release, 2/25).