FRIDAY, May 6, 2016 -- Although HIV infection and transmission rates in the United States declined over the past five years, they fell short of White House targets, a new study finds.
Between 2010 and 2015, new HIV infections decreased 11 percent and transmission of the AIDS-causing virus declined 17 percent, far less than the goals set in 2010 as part of the U.S. National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS), researchers said.
The NHAS goals for 2015 were reductions of 25 percent for new HIV infections and 30 percent declines in HIV transmission.
"Even though we missed the goals by a sizable margin, it's promising to see that we made important progress in reducing rates of HIV infection and transmission," said lead study author Robert Bonacci. He is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
The aim was to lower the persistent HIV infection rate (about 50,000 cases a year) through a more coordinated national response, improved access and care for people with HIV, and a reduction in HIV-related health disparities, the study authors noted.
"Scaling up HIV treatment and care alone was not enough," Bonacci said in a university news release. "We need a simultaneous expansion of diagnostic and prevention services, paired with an intensified focus on communities disproportionately affected by HIV."
He said these communities include gay men, young people, transgender people, black Americans, Hispanics and those who live in the southern United States.
The researchers' analysis of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data showed that between 2010 and 2015, the number of new HIV infections fell annually from nearly 37,400 to just over 33,200. Meanwhile, the rate of HIV transmission decreased from 3.16 to 2.61 (a 17 percent reduction), the study found.
During that time, the number of people living with HIV rose from just over 1.18 million to 1.27 million. Also, deaths of people with HIV from all causes fell from about 17,800 to 16,000, the findings showed.
The findings were published online April 29 in the journal AIDS and Behavior.
The researchers said that since the NHAS was launched, there has been little growth in funding for HIV programs in the nation, with the exception of increased funding for HIV treatment. Last year, the White House extended the NHAS through 2020.
"After the release of the first National HIV/AIDS Strategy, researchers cautioned that failure to expand diagnostic, prevention and care services to necessary levels would result in underachievement on the NHAS goals for 2015," said study senior author David Holtgrave.
"Our analysis suggests that is just what happened," said Holtgrave, chair of the department of health, behavior and society at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
"HIV prevention efforts must be reinvigorated in the NHAS's second era," he added.