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Media Statement

For Immediate Release
Contact: National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
(404) 639-8895


World AIDS Day
December 1, 2009

 

Statements from the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention



“Confronting the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in the United States”
Statement by Dr. Kevin Fenton, Director, NCHHSTP, CDC:


On this World AIDS Day, we are reminded that the fight against HIV is far from over, in the United States and around the world.  Every nine and a half minutes, someone in the United States is newly infected with HIV.  One in 5 of the more than 1 million people living with HIV in this country are unaware of their infections and may be unknowingly transmitting the virus to others.  And although available treatments have dramatically increased the life expectancy of people with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, it remains a fatal disease – in 2007, more than 14,000 Americans with AIDS died.  Clearly, we must keep fighting this preventable, yet deadly disease that impacts so many Americans, and we laud President Obama’s commitment to reducing HIV incidence, increasing access to care, optimizing health outcomes, and reducing HIV-related health disparities.

The impact of HIV in the United States continues to be most severe among some of our most vulnerable populations. By risk group, men who have sex with men account for the majority of new infections and of people living with HIV.  By race/ethnicity, African-Americans and Latinos bear the heaviest burden of disease.  And although rates among Asians/Pacific Islanders and American Indians/Alaska Natives are lower, the burden of HIV on these communities remains significant.  A range of social, cultural, and economic factors – including stigma, racism, poverty, and limited access to health care – contribute to the disproportionate impact of HIV on each of these groups.  And since young people in each of these populations continue to become infected with HIV at high rates, we must continue to reach each new generation with information and education on how to prevent HIV from impacting their lives. 

Although HIV clearly remains a serious public health threat in the United States, far too many people mistakenly believe that HIV is no longer a serious problem.  A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey reported a decline in awareness and concern about HIV in the United States.  Most alarming is that studies show even those at greatest risk of HIV infection, including African-Americans and men who have sex with men, do not recognize their risk or believe HIV is no longer a serious health threat.  CDC’s Act Against AIDS campaign, launched last spring, seeks to combat this complacency and put HIV back on the radar screen of all Americans. 

The heavy burden of HIV in the United States is neither inevitable nor acceptable.  Substantial declines in new infections are possible with a stronger response to the epidemic.  There is an urgent national need to reach all populations at risk with effective HIV prevention programs.  On World AIDS Day – and every day – we must work together and continue to refocus national attention on the HIV crisis in America.

“Important Role of Health Care Providers in Preventing the Spread of HIV” Statement by Dr. Jonathan Mermin, Director, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, NCHHSTP, CDC:


As we work on World AIDS Day and beyond to reach people affected by HIV, we must acknowledge and work to expand the critical role of health care providers in stemming the toll of HIV and AIDS in the United States.  In the early days of HIV in this country, health care providers were on the front lines in identifying and confronting an unknown and emerging epidemic.  They played a key role in research to identify effective treatments and have helped extend the length and quality of life of countless Americans living with HIV and AIDS. 

And although the epidemic has changed over time, the role of health care providers remains just as important today, not only for treating those with HIV, but also for helping to stop new infections.  Doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals can play a critical role in HIV prevention, especially by ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to learn their HIV status.

CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested for HIV when accessing health care, regardless of the patients’ perceived risk of infection.  Early HIV testing is key to prevention, so that people who are HIV-infected can take the necessary steps to protect their partners, as well as connect to treatment when it will be most effective. 

Yet far too many people in this country are diagnosed too late.  More than one-third of individuals diagnosed with HIV are diagnosed within one year of developing AIDS, indicating that these people were likely infected for many years without knowing it and potentially transmitting the virus to others during this time.  Additionally, a late diagnosis means that it may be too late for someone who is infected to fully benefit from treatment.  Thus, every effort by providers to administer an HIV test could have a direct impact on a patient’s life, and in the lives of others that the patient could take steps to protect.

In addition to testing, it is critical that health care providers speak with all of their patients – both those who are HIV-infected and uninfected – openly and honestly about HIV, reducing risk behaviors, and staying healthy.  Patients listen to their doctors, yet far too many report never speaking with them about HIV.  Simple conversations could save lives.

But you don’t have to be a doctor to help prevent HIV.  All of us can take steps to protect ourselves and our loved ones from this deadly disease.  Know if you are at risk, how HIV is spread, and take action to protect yourself.  Get tested – whether at your doctor’s office or somewhere else.  Talk to your family and friends about HIV, and help reduce the stigma that keeps too many people from seeking the testing, prevention, treatment, and support services needed to live a healthy life.

####

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

 
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