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Prevent human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and its related illness and death.


The HIV epidemic in the United States continues to be a major public health crisis. An estimated 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV, and 1 out of 5 people with HIV do not know they have it.1 HIV continues to spread, leading to about 56,000 new HIV infections each year.2

In 2010, the White House released a National HIV/AIDS Strategy. The strategy includes 3 primary goals:

  1. Reducing the number of people who become infected with HIV.
  2. Increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV.
  3. Reducing HIV-related health disparities.

Why Is HIV Important?

HIV is a preventable disease. Effective HIV prevention interventions have been proven to reduce HIV transmission. People who get tested for HIV and learn that they are infected can make significant behavior changes to improve their health and reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to their sex or drug-using partners. More than 50 percent of new HIV infections3 occur as a result of the 21 percent of people who have HIV but do not know it.

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Understanding HIV

In the era of increasingly effective treatments for HIV, people with HIV are living longer, healthier, and more productive lives. Deaths from HIV infection have greatly declined in the United States since the 1990s. As the number of people living with HIV grows, it will be more important than ever to increase national HIV prevention and health care programs.

There are gender, race, and ethnicity disparities in new HIV infections.2

  • Nearly 75 percent of new HIV infections occur in men.
  • More than half occur in gay and bisexual men, regardless of race or ethnicity.
  • Forty-five percent of new HIV infections occur in African Americans, 35 percent in whites, and 17 percent in Hispanics.

Improving access to quality health care for populations disproportionately affected by HIV, such as persons of color and gay and bisexual men, is a fundamental public health strategy for HIV prevention. People getting care for HIV can receive:

  • Antiretroviral therapy
  • Screening and treatment for other diseases (such as sexually transmitted infections)
  • HIV prevention interventions
  • Mental health services
  • Other health services

Emerging Issues in HIV

As the number of people living with HIV increases and more people become aware of their HIV status, prevention strategies that are targeted specifically for HIV-infected people are becoming more important. Prevention work with people living with HIV focuses on:

  • Linking to and staying in treatment.
  • Increasing the availability of ongoing HIV prevention interventions.
  • Providing prevention services for their partners.

It is also important to foster wider availability of comprehensive services for people living with HIV and their partners through partnerships among health departments, community-based organizations, and health care and social service providers.

Public perception in the United States about the seriousness of the HIV epidemic has declined in recent years. There is evidence that risky behaviors may be increasing among uninfected people, especially gay and bisexual men. Ongoing media and social campaigns for the general public and HIV prevention interventions for uninfected persons who engage in risky behaviors are critical.


1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV prevalence estimates—United States, 2006. MMWR. 2008;57(39):1073-76.

2Hall HI, Song R, Rhodes P, et al. Estimation of HIV incidence in the United States. JAMA. 2008;300(5):520-9.

3Marks G, Crepaz N, Janssen RS, et al. Estimating sexual transmission of HIV from persons aware and unaware that they are infected with the virus in the USA. AIDS. 2006;20(10):1447-50.

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