For the first time in more than three decades, the state of Maryland recorded fewer than 1,000 new cases of HIV infection in 2018.

The state Department of Health announced on Tuesday that 997 new cases of HIV were reported in Maryland last year. That’s the lowest since 947 people learned they’d contracted the virus in 1986, just five years after the state’s first reported HIV case.


The AIDS epidemic peaked in Maryland in 1991, when 2,612 new HIV infections were reported, the health department said.

The department said Tuesday’s low numbers are the result of statewide efforts.

“We’re very proud of the numbers that we’re reporting,” said Peter DeMartino, the state’s director of infectious disease prevention.

He credited the drop in HIV infections not just to the state’s efforts to protect people from acquiring the virus — including traditional methods such as safe-sex education programs and condom distribution, and access to new prophylactic medication for some patients — but also to the state’s approach to treatment.

“Our goal for people living with HIV has become viral suppression — undetectable equals untransmittable,” he said. “We want to get everyone who is diagnosed linked to health care and keep them on treatment. A person who is virally suppressed can’t transmit. That’s probably had the largest impact.”

Sixty percent of Maryland’s HIV patients are now virally suppressed, DeMartino said.

He also credited the expansion of a needle-exchange program for injection-drug users, which in 2018 began covering the entire state, as a contributor to the reduction in infections.

On other sexually transmitted infections, Maryland saw less success. The number of new syphilis cases increased 29 percent from 2017 to 2018, hitting 737 new cases in 2018, DeMartino said. Gonorrhea cases increased 6 percent, while chlamydia cases fell 6 percent.