Researchers see a path to end HIV epidemic

With a sustained emphasis on prevention, detection and treatment, the nation's HIV epidemic could reach the beginning of the end in 2025, according to new projections from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

That's the year when new infections could decline enough that the number of people living with the disease would also start to decline.

Researchers acknowledge that the targets were ambitious -- just 12,000 new annual infections in 2025 down from 21,000 in 2020 and 39,000 in 2013. That's a 70 percent drop.

At the same time, the mortality rate would drop 24 percent to 12,522 in 2025, according to the projections.

The study, published online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, calculated the possible trajectory of the HIV epidemic by using U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data on the number of annual new infections, people living with HIV and deaths combined with federal diagnosis and treatment benchmarks.

The benchmarks call for 90 percent of people to get tested to know if they are infected, to get sustained to achieve undetectable levels of virus in their blood by 2020, and the researchers upped the goal to 95 percent by 2025. People only spread HIV when they virus is not suppressed or they don't know they are infected, which is still not uncommon.

"While these targets are ambitious, they could be achieved with an intensified and sustained national commitment over the next decade," said David Holtgrave, study co-author and chair of the department of health, behavior and society at Hopkins. "It's critical to note that the key to ending the HIV epidemic domestically lies in our collective willingness as a country to invest the necessary resources in HIV diagnostic, prevention and treatment programs."

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

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