HIV death rates drop by nearly half, CDC reports

From 2010 to 2017, HIV death rates dropped by nearly half, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Early diagnosis, prompt treatment, and maintaining access to high-quality care and treatment have been successful in reducing HIV-related deaths and remain necessary for continuing reductions in HIV-related deaths,” reads the agency’s latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MWWR).

The death rate fell by 48% (9.1 to 4.7 per 1,000 people diagnosed with HIV), and the reduction upheld despite gender, age, race or region.The CDC analyzed data from The National HIV Surveillance System (NHSS) to assess the HIV death rate in people over 13.

In about the same timeframe, overall death rates fell by more than one-third (or 19.4 to 12.3 per 1,000 people diagnosed with HIV). Those of multiple races experienced the highest HIV-related death rate, followed by Black, White and Hispanic people, respectively. The rate was highest in the South, and lowest in the Northeast, per the report.


The CDC says these deaths are preventable, but in 2017 HIV still ranked among the 10 highest causes of death in certain groups. The agency suggested stigma around HIV and difficulty accessing care contribute to the death rate, as well as poverty and lack of insurance.

Nevertheless, members of the medical community welcomed the progress so far.

After mounting evidence that antiretroviral therapy was beneficial to HIV patients, and rates of secondary transmission, the CDC said federal guidelines were adjusted in 2012 to recommend the therapy for everyone with HIV.

A Brazilian patient sparked interest over this summer after researchers suggested he might have cleared an HIV infection after being administered a combination of antiretroviral drugs and nicotinamide to rout out the virus lingering in reservoirs of cells. He was diagnosed with HIV in October 2012.

However much more research is needed to dub the drug combo a “cure.” The only other known cure offering long-term HIV remission resulted from bone marrow transplants in two people. Meanwhile, a small percentage of HIV patients may naturally reach a “functional cure,” isolating the virus into parts of the human genome so remote, it is unable to replicate, according to separate research.

The CDC report comes two weeks after news that the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a clinical trial involving injected-drug cabotegravir, finding it highly effective in preventing HIV infections among women. This drug may offer a more convenient alternative to taking an oral tablet daily, the WHO said.

“Women in the countries where the trial was conducted and across East and southern Africa continue to experience high HIV incidence,” reads the WHO release. “More effective and acceptable HIV prevention choices for women are needed.”


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