Compared to 2017, new HIV infections overall were 12% lower in 2021, falling from approximately 36,500 to 32,100 infections, respectively, according to the CDC.
New HIV infections among 13- to 24-year-olds decreased by 34% from 2017 to 2021, a driving factor behind an overall 12% decrease in new HIV infections during the same time frame, according to a recent press release from the CDC.
In 2017, there were an estimated 9300 annual HIV infections among people aged 13 to 24 years; by 2021, that number fell to 6100. Declines among gay and bisexual males in the same age group (who account for approximately 80% of new infections) contributed heavily to the overall decline, as estimated infections fell from 7400 in 2017 to 4,900 in 2021.
The decline in HIV infections among this youth to young adult age group drove an overall decline. Compared to 2017, new HIV infections were 12% lower in 2021, falling from approximately 36,500 to 32,100 infections, respectively.
“Our nation’s HIV prevention efforts continue to move in the right direction,” said Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, director, 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.”
According to the CDC, improved reach of HIV treatment, testing, and preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has contributed to the decline in new infections among young gay and bisexual males. The number of people taking PrEP was the greatest improvement among key HIV prevention indicators. Roughly 30% of the 1.2 million people who could benefit from PrEP were prescribed it, the CDC states, an improvement from the approximately 13% that were prescribed it in 2017.
“Decreasing HIV incidence among youth, including young gay and bisexual males, shows us what is possible,” said Jonathan Mermin, MD, MPH, director, National Center for HIV, CDC. “But ending the HIV epidemic and achieving equity requires we expand this progress to all.”
The decline of annual HIV infections among young gay and bisexual males was not even among all racial and ethnic groups, as “Declines were lower among young Black/African American (subsequently, Black) and 13- to 24-year-old Hispanic/Latino gay and bisexual males than young White gay and bisexual males, suggesting that HIV prevention and treatment are not reaching everyone in this group equitably—and reflecting broader disparities that hinder HIV prevention,” according to the CDC.
“At least  people in the [United States] get HIV every hour–at a time when we have more effective prevention and treatment options than ever before,” said Robyn NeblettFanfair, MD, MPH, acting director, Division of HIV Prevention, CDC. “These tools must reach deep into communities and be delivered faster to expand progress from some groups to all groups.”
The CDC lists 3 aspects that must happen to reach this goal and end the HIV epidemic. Increasing investments in proven HIV prevention programs through the “Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S.” (EHE) initiative, maximizing innovations by expanding HIV self-testing and increasing the number and type of settings to reach HIV patients, and centering equity in all aspects of HIV prevention to better reach those that are disproportionately affected by HIV are aspects the CDC deems necessary to end the HIV epidemic.
The press release states, “Tools to end the HIV epidemic in the [United States] are available now, but our nation will not succeed until they equitably reach the people who need them to stay healthy.”
HIV declines among young people and drives overall decrease in new HIV infections. CDC Newsroom. May 23, 2023. Accessed June 6, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2023/p0523-hiv-declines-among-young-people.html