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Survey Reveals Age Affects HIV Care and Diagnosis

Update Date: Jun 18, 2013 04:09 PM EDT

HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus that becomes AIDS when left untreated currently afflicts over one million Americans according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). HIV, which is treatable but not curable, is a dangerous infection that could be prevented if more people were aware of their own risk factors and took measures. Based on a new study, researchers found that the younger a person is, the less likely that person is aware of whether or not he or she is infected with HIV, which could contribute to the spread of this dangerous infection.

Researchers used data from a 2009 National HIV Surveillance system and they found several trends that affected the level of care people with HIV get. They found that age played a huge factor in HIV awareness and treatment. The researchers calculated that for people under 45, they are less likely to receive proper care for HIV due to the fact that they are not aware of their own infection. In the group of people between 13 and 24-years-old, only 40 percent get diagnosed. Of this percentage, 30 percent is referred for care. In the age group of 25 to 34, 28 percent of the people end up getting care. This number is extremely low in general and in comparison to the 46 percent of people who receive care from the age group of 55 to 64.

Overall over 200,000 Americans currently do not know that they are infected. This group of people could be accidentally transferring the disease to other people, creating and feeding a vicious cycle of infection. 37 percent of people with HIV end up getting regular care while one-third of the people with the virus get prescribed with HIV-suppressing medications. Currently, only 25 percent of the infected population has reached suppressed viral load, which means that this group of people has managed to maintain HIV at very low levels. This indicates that over 850,000 Americans did not manage to reach the goal of suppress viral load. Of all the men living in the U.S., 75 percent are men, 79 percent are black, 74 percent are Hispanic, and 70 percent are white.

"Individuals, health care providers, health departments and government agencies must all work together to increase the numbers of people living with HIV who are aware of their status, linked to and retained in care, receiving treatment and adherent to treatment," researchers stated. The team was headed by H. Irene Hall of the CDC.

"In 2011, the HIV field was shocked to learn that only about a quarter of individuals living with HIV were successfully receiving HIV treatment," Dr. Katerina Christopoulos and Dr. Diane Havlir, of the University of California, San Francisco, wrote in an accompanying commentary according to HealthDay.

The study continues to stress the importance of getting people tested, which would ideally protect other people from the infection. The findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine

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