New Study Finds HIV Suppression in US Lower than Expected

The goods news is that by any measure, the percentage of people with HIV who have a suppressed viral load thanks to ART has increased tremendously. From 45% in 2001 one up to around 77% in 2010. This is a pretty huge deal. It means both that people with HIV have more control over the virus and that the nationwide risk of transmission has significantly decreased.

The bad news is that until now it was believed that viral suppression had risen as high as 87% – nearly 10% higher than it actually is. The reason the suppression rate is lower than expected is that earlier studies looked at a single viral load test for each individual. The newest study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at viral suppression rates throughout the entire year.

This means that at any given time up to 87% of people with HIV and AIDS may have the virus suppressed, but fewer than 77% of people with HIV and AIDS keep the virus suppressed over an entire year. The study did not have any information on why over 1 in 5 people with HIV/AIDS were unable to maintain viral suppression. It is possible that access to medication and adherence to treatment play a large role in this problem, especially as the study found that the people most likely to not maintain viral suppression are also the people who would have the most difficulty getting access to treatment: uninsured, people on public insurance, African-Americans and intravenous drug users.

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