HIV Declines Among Young People, Driving Overall Decrease in New Infections

May 31, 2023 by Dan McCue
HIV Declines Among Young People, Driving Overall Decrease in New Infections
(Photo via Pixabay)

ATLANTA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this week that estimated annual new HIV infections were 12% lower in 2021 compared to 2017, a drop from about 36,500 infections to about 32,100.

According to the CDC, the decline was driven by a 34% decrease in new infections among 13- to 24-year-olds, mostly among gay and bisexual males. 

Despite the progress, the health agency said HIV prevention efforts “must go further and progress must be faster” to reach populations equitably and achieve the national goal of ending the HIV epidemic.

The CDC estimates that annual HIV infections dropped from 9,300 in 2017 to 6,100 in 2021 among 13- to 24-year-olds. 

Declines among young gay and bisexual males (who account for roughly 80% of new infections in this age group) drove the trend, falling from an estimated 7,400 infections to about 4,900 during the time frame.

“Our nation’s HIV prevention efforts continue to move in the right direction,” said outgoing CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky. 

“Longstanding factors, such as systemic inequities, social and economic marginalization and residential segregation, however, stand between highly effective HIV treatment and prevention and people who could benefit from them,” she said.

The decline in annual HIV infections among young gay and bisexual males was not equal across all racial and ethnic groups. 

Declines were lower among young Black/African American (subsequently, Black) and 13- to 24-year-old Hispanic/Latino gay and bisexual males than young White gay and bisexual males, suggesting that HIV prevention and treatment are not reaching everyone in this group equitably — and reflecting broader disparities that hinder HIV prevention.

Among key HIV prevention indicators, the greatest improvement was in the number of people taking PrEP to prevent HIV. 

In 2021, about 30% of the 1.2 million people who could benefit from PrEP were prescribed it — a notable improvement compared to about 13% prescribed PrEP in 2017. 

However, although most people who could benefit from PrEP are Black or Hispanic/Latino people, estimates suggest relatively few Black people or Hispanic/Latino people were prescribed the drug.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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