HIV: Then and Now

By CareerSmart Learning Contributor, June 2nd, 2017, as published by Healthcare Hot Spot


In the United States, the number of people dying from HIV/AIDS has dramatically decreased since the early 1980s, primarily due to increased HIV testing and the prevalence of anti-retroviral therapy (often called ART) available today.  Since the first HIV diagnosis in the 1980s, many things have changed, but sadly, some things have stayed the same. 

In this country, the populations most affected by HIV/AIDS have not changed: men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to be the top demographic affected by the pandemic.  While the MSM population only accounts for about 2% of the U.S. population, they totaled approximately 67% of the HIV diagnoses in 2015 (CDC, 2016a and AIDS.gov, 2016).  Within the MSM population, white men made up the majority of HIV diagnoses in the 1980’s, however, the rate of black and Latino men being diagnosed today is on the rise.  From 2010 to 2014, the CDC found that there was a 16% increase in diagnoses in the gay and bisexual Latino/Hispanic population (CDC, 2016a).

The CDC estimates that if the current rates continue, 50% of gay and bisexual black men will be diagnosed with HIV, 25% of gay and bisexual Latino men will be diagnosed with HIV, and 9% of gay and bisexual white men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime.  Today, statistics show that HIV disproportionately affects black and Latino MSM (CDC, 2016a).

The good news is that there have been many advances in HIV medications over the last two decades, now with over 30 different medications used to treat HIV/AIDS (AIDS Info, 2017).  When HIV medication regimens begin in the 1990s, people living with HIV where taking dozens of pills everyday, but now there are many highly effective regimens that are only one pill a day (AIDS Info, 2017).  In addition to advances in HIV treatment, studies have found that one HIV medication can be used for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).  Truvada is intended for high-risk populations and when be taken as directed, has been shown to reduce the risk of contracting HIV by 92% (CDC, 2016b). 

The transmission modes for HIV remain the same, but the rates of infection in the U.S. are declining overall.  With new treatment, HIV is now a manageable disease and a far cry from the death sentence it was in the 1980s. 


AIDS Info.  (2017).  HIV Treatment.  Retrieved from https://aidsinfo.nih.gov/education-materials/fact-sheets/21/58/fda-approved-hiv-medicines

AIDS.gov.  (2016).  U.S. Statistics.  Retrieved from https://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/hiv-aids-101/statistics/.

CDC.  (2016a). HIV/AIDS.   Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/msm/

CDC.  (2016b).  Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis.  Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/prep/

June 2, 2017

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