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CDC Releases New U.S. HIV Incidence Estimate: Underreporting of Annual Incidence Shows Prevention More Important Than Ever

For Immediate Release                                                  Contact: Martha Kempner
August 4, 2008                                                               (212) 819-9770 ext. 324

New York, NY – Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its updated estimates for HIV incidence rates in the United States. Since 1994, the CDC has estimated the incidence rate for new HIV infections at 40,000 per year, but the new estimate today puts the number at approximately 56,300 new infections per year, a 40% change.

The new numbers do not represent an actual increase in the number of new infections. Instead they are based on new and improved technology that gives a more accurate picture of the HIV epidemic, and suggests that previous estimates were in fact too low.

“The new estimates of annual HIV infections must be viewed by policymakers and the public as a renewed call to arms to fully fund domestic prevention efforts,” said William Smith, vice president for public policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). “While the number of people in the U.S. becoming infected with HIV each year remains extremely troubling, our government’s response gets a grade of “F” because prevention funding has declined in real dollars every year since 2001.”

Currently, HIV-prevention funding makes up a mere 3% of domestic federal HIV/AIDS spending. At the same time, state and local HIV-prevention cooperative agreements have been cut by $26 million from Fiscal Year 2003 to Fiscal Year 2007 and may be cut by an additional $5 million in Fiscal Year 2008. The only new resources ($45 million) have been for HIV testing expansion.

“It is time for officials on the local, state, and federal level to get their priorities in order,” continued Smith. “Prevention efforts work when they are fully funded and accessible to the most at risk communities. But, instead of putting desperately needed funds into HIV prevention, the government has wasted more than $1.5 billion dollars over the past decade on failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.”

Furthermore, the HIV epidemic continues to strongly and disproportionately affect minority and underserved communities. The new infection rate among blacks was 7 times higher than among whites, and the new infection rate among Hispanics was 3 times that of whites.

HIV incidence rates represent the number of new infections that occur each year, however, historically estimates have been based on the number of new diagnoses each year which can be misleading as many HIV infections are not diagnosed until years after they occur. New testing technology has allowed the CDC to distinguish between recent and long standing infections, and therefore produced much more accurate numbers. And those numbers clearly show that we are not doing enough to combat this preventable disease.

The new estimates come on the heels of a major commitment made in Mexico City in advance of this week’s International Conference on AIDS. That commitment was made by every country in Latin America to significantly scale up their comprehensive sex education programming to stem the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The U.S. was not officially invited to the meeting because of its continued promotion of abstinence-only-until-marriage programming which, in addition to being repudiated around the globe, has isolated the United States at major venues such as that taking place in Mexico City.

“We have the resources at our fingertips to start to decrease the incidence rates. All we need to do is to reach a point where we are putting adequate funds toward prevention efforts as well as fully funding programs to take care of people living with HIV/AIDS,” concluded Smith.

For more information, please contact Martha Kempner at, or (212) 819-9770 ext. 324.