More than 90 percent of new HIV infections come from people not receiving medical care for the disease. And 30 percent of new infections were transmitted from people who don't know they have HIV.
The findings, from a new study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers, show the consequences of a major public health issue: Not only are untreated people with HIV more likely to die as a result of the virus, but they also have a higher chance of spreading it to others.
The study indicates public health officials need to do a better job raising awareness and connecting people with affordable, accessible treatments for HIV.
Antiretroviral drugs, which suppress the severity of an HIV patient's infection, have helped bring down the disease's mortality rate in the US — to the point that it's now possible for HIV-positive people to live as long as their HIV-negative peers. And people successfully keeping HIV under control through treatment are 94 percent less likely to transmit the virus than those who don't know they're infected, according to the CDC.
In recent years, the CDC has stepped up efforts to connect at-risk populations with HIV testing and care. The White House's national strategy for HIV/AIDS set a goal for 2015 to connect 85 percent of newly diagnosed HIV patients with care within 90 days of their diagnoses. But other research from the CDC suggest the federal government has a long ways to go before it meets the goal, particularly among black Americans disproportionately affected by the epidemic.