HIV Infections Are Down, But Huge Racial Gaps Remain

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the number of new HIV infections declined by 12 percent from 2017 to 2021. But the decline in annual HIV infections is not equal across all racial and ethnic groups. Most new HIV infections in 2021 were among gay and bisexual men, the majority of whom were Black or Hispanic/Latino. About one-fifth of new HIV infections in 2021 were among women, and over half of those were among Black women. For young gay and bisexual men, Whites saw a 45 percent reduction in HIV infections, while Blacks saw only a 25 percent reduction.

PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a once-daily prescription medicine for adults and adolescents at risk of HIV. It helps lower the chances of getting HIV through sex. Nationwide, 30 percent of men eligible for PrEP were prescribed the drug. But 78 percent of eligible Whites received the medication compared to just 11 percent of Blacks.

“Our nation’s HIV prevention efforts continue to move in the right direction,” said Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the CDC. “Longstanding factors, such as systemic inequities, social and economic marginalization, and residential segregation, however, stand between highly effective HIV treatment and prevention and people who could benefit from them. Efforts must be accelerated and strengthened for progress to reach all groups faster and equitably.”

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