A record number of Americans have been tested for HIV, but an estimated 200,000 have the virus and don't know it, putting them at risk of spreading it and missing out on care that can prevent AIDS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.
In advance of World AIDS Day today, the CDC released its monthly Vital Signs report on the progress in HIV testing. Since its call in 2006 for HIV testing to become a routine part of medical care, 11.4 million additional people have been tested, CDC Director Thomas Frieden said. In 2009, that meant a record 82.9 million had taken the test, said Jonathan Mermin, the director of the HIV/AIDS Prevention Program for CDC.
"This is significant progress in increasing testing and linkage to care," Frieden said. "However, there are still 200,000 or more Americans who have HIV and don't know it."
More than half of adults have not been tested, and 28 percent of adults at high risk of HIV have not been tested, he said. People who know they are HIV-positive can get earlier treatment that can help prevent the development of AIDS, Frieden said.
"Virtually all AIDS cases are preventable, either by preventing infection or by preventing progression from infection to AIDS," he said. Each case of HIV means about $367,000 in lifetime medical costs, so preventing the spread and getting treatment is crucial, Mermin said.
"Early diagnosis and linkage to care and prevention services can mean a longer, healthier life for those who are infected with HIV and a critical opportunity to make inroads into the epidemic," he said.