Estimates of new HIV infections in the United States
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Estimates of new HIV infections in the United States

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      Accurately tracking the HIV epidemic is essential to the nation’s HIV prevention efforts. Yet monitoring trends in new HIV infections has historically posed a major challenge, in part because many HIV infections are not diagnosed until years after they occur.

      Now, new technology developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can be used to distinguish recent from longstanding HIV infections. CDC has applied this advanced technology to develop the first national surveillance system of its kind that is based on direct measurement of new HIV infections. This new system represents a major advance in HIV surveillance and allows for more precise estimates of HIV incidence (the annual number of new infections) than ever before possible.

      CDC’s first estimates from this system reveal that the HIV epidemic is — and has been — worse than previously known. Results indicate that approximately 56,300 new HIV infections occurred in the United States in 2006 (95% Confidence Interval: 48,200 – 64,500). This figure is roughly 40 percent higher than CDC’s former estimate of 40,000 infections per year, which was based on limited data and less precise methods (see box on page 5, “Historical Challenges in Tracking HIV Incidence”).

      It is important to note that the new estimate does not represent an actual increase in the annual number of new HIV infections. In fact, CDC’s analysis suggests that the epidemic has been roughly stable since the late 1990s, though the number of new HIV infections remains unacceptably high. These findings underscore the ongoing challenges in confronting this disease and the urgent need to expand access to effective HIV prevention programs.


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