Image via AP.

I’d rather give you the bad news before the good news (because part of the reason the bad news stays bad is it’s presented as an afterthought), but you need the good news to put the bad news in perspective so: New HIV infections in the U.S. dropped 18 percent between 2008 and 2014 (from about 45,700 to 37,600) according to a report the CDC presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle. This is a sharper decline than in previous reports—the CDC found new diagnoses fell 19 percent over 2005 to 2014, a time span three years longer than the current report.

That said, the annual infections among gay/bisexual men remained stable at about 26,000. While rates within certain populations within that subset declined—whites overall and those in the 13 to 24 age group—those lowered numbers were offset by increases in the following groups:

  • 35 percent among 25- to 34-year-old gay and bisexual males (from 7,200 to 9,700)
  • 20 percent among Latino gay and bisexual males (from 6,100 to 7,300)

New infections amongst black men who have sex with men (MSM) have remained stable, at around 10,000. This is encouraging progress for a population that is so vulnerable to this disease, the CDC projected last year (in line with projections that had already been circulating for several years at that point despite overall public apathy) that if the current rates persisted, one in two black MSM would contract HIV within their lifetimes, and one in four Latino MSM would (for contrast, the projection for white MSM was 1 in 11).

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Many, many reasons have been proposed as to why HIV disproportionately affects people of color, including stigma, lack of access to healthcare, and overt social racism. These problems aren’t going away, and will likely only be exacerbated by the Trump administration.

As for the populations that have experienced a decline in new HIV infections, the CDC released these figures:

  • 56 percent decline among people who inject drugs (from 3,900 to 1,700);
  • 36 percent decline among heterosexuals (from 13,400 to 8,600);
  • 18 percent decline among young gay and bisexual males ages 13 to 24 (from 9,400 to 7,700);
  • 18 percent decline among white gay and bisexual males (from 9,000 to 7,400);
  • And substantially in some states and Washington, DC — Washington, DC (dropping 10 percent each year over the six-year period); Maryland (down about 8 percent annually); Pennsylvania (down about 7 percent annually); Georgia (down about 6 percent annually); New York and North Carolina (both down about 5 percent annually); Illinois (down about 4 percent annually); and Texas (down about 2 percent annually).

According to its press release, the CDC believes that viral suppression via meds that render the virus difficult (if not virtually impossible) to transmit have played a role in these declines. Additionally, the release cites PrEP (or pre-exposure prophylaxis, in which uninfected members of high-risk populations are administered anti-retroviral medication in order to create resistance to being infected by the virus) as possibly also playing a role.

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