About 15 percent of Americans infected with HIV don’t know it, a new report from the CDC said on Tuesday, and 25 percent of those diagnosed were unaware they had the disease for at least three years.
Among all 1.2 million Americans living with HIV, the CDC estimated that about 180,000 were unaware of their HIV-positive status, the Los Angeles Times reported, and those people are thought to be responsible for 40 percent of new transmissions of HIV,
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report said that among the 39,720 people diagnosed with HIV in 2015, a quarter had the disease for three years without knowing they had it.
“Delayed HIV diagnoses continue to be substantial for some population groups and prevent early entry to care to improve health outcomes and reduce HIV transmission to others,” the report said.
“Health care providers and others providing HIV testing can reduce HIV-related adverse health outcomes and risk for HIV transmission by implementing routine and targeted HIV testing to decrease diagnosis delays,” the report continued.
The Times said HIV, which was once considered a death sentence for those contracting the disease, is now manageable with medicine that allows people with the virus to live a virtually normal lifespan, generally without health complications.
“The benefits are clear,” Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, told the Times about early diagnosis. “Prompt diagnosis is prevention. It is the first step to protecting people living with HIV and their partners.”
The CDC report said that while African-Americans were more likely than whites to report testing in the past 12 months across all racial groups at risk, the median diagnosis delay was one year longer – 3.3 years for blacks and 2.2 years for whites.
Asians had the longest HIV diagnosis delay among any racial group, averaging 4.2 years from first contracting to being diagnosed, the CDC said.
The CDC said cultural factors, such as stigma, fear, discrimination, and homophobia, might contribute to longer diagnosis delays in some populations.
The report said that 50.5 percent of undiagnosed HIV infections were found in the South. The study added that the delay was more pronounced among older people, 4.5 years for those 55 years and older and 2.4 years among persons 13 to 24 years old.