A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the rate of HIV diagnoses has declined nationally, but not among all groups of people.
Annual HIV diagnoses in the U.S. fell by 19 percent from 2005 to 2014, according to the federal agency. The report cites dramatic and continuing declines among several populations including heterosexuals, people who inject drugs, and African-Americans, especially among black women.
But unlike the national trends, Kentucky isn’t experiencing a decline in HIV diagnoses, state epidemiologist Dr. Kraig Humbaugh said.
“We’ve had a pretty stable rate of new HIV infection. If you go back 10 years, you’ll see that it continues, on average, about one Kentuckian is newly diagnosed with HIV for every day of the year here,” he said.
In 2014, there were 341 new cases of HIV in Kentucky. In 2013, there were 364 new cases.
Humbaugh said there are more than 6,200 people living with HIV in Kentucky. He also said more than half of newly diagnosed HIV patients are in their 20s and 30s, but they only make up a quarter of Kentucky’s population.
The state has a larger population of HIV-positive people, but those people haven’t been tested and don’t know that they are positive for the disease, Humbaugh said.
He said many people are diagnosed with HIV and AIDS at the same time, which means they are in a later stage of their disease at the time of their diagnosis.
“And that can have greater potential human, societal and financial costs because the disease is further along,” he said.
Nationally, the rate of HIV diagnoses among heterosexuals is down 35 percent, and it is down 63 percent among people who inject drugs, according to the CDC report.
In Kentucky, about 15 percent of cases report injection drug use as a risk factor, Humbaugh said.
Between 2005 and 2014, HIV diagnoses among black women in the U.S. declined by 42 percent, according to the CDC. Humbaugh said minorities in the state are disproportionally affected by HIV.
“Blacks and Hispanics have higher rates of HIV than whites do,” he said. “Now, the majority of our cases are white because 87 percent of the state is white. But if you look at numbers of cases in the most recent year that we have good data on, about a third of cases are in African-Americans, and yet they make up less than 10 percent of our population.”
But among the category of men who have sex with men, there was an overall increase of HIV diagnoses nationwide, according to the report. Among gay and bisexual men, the rate of HIV increased about 6 percent from 2005 to 2014, but it has stabilized since 2010.
During the same period, HIV diagnoses among black gay and bisexual men increased by 22 percent. The rate has also stabilized in more recent years.
Diagnoses also increased among Latino gay and bisexual men by 24 percent from 2005 to 2014 and by 13 percent since 2010.
White gay and bisexual men experienced a steady drop by 18 percent between 2005 and 2014 and by 6 percent since 2010.
Humbaugh said it’s important for people to know their status.
“If they know their status, either negative or positive, they’re actually less likely to engage in risky behavior,” he said.
The state continues to collaborate and fund community-based organizations throughout the state for prevention and testing, he said.
“We also want to be targeted in our testing and test those individuals that have the highest risk factors … those populations that are more likely to have HIV,” he said.