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CDC Report: Shorter Delays Between HIV Infection and Diagnosis

Nearly 40,000 people living in the U.S. were diagnosed with HIV in 2015. The average delay between infection and diagnosis among these individuals was three years, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC previously estimated an average of three years and seven months between infection and diagnosis based on data from 2011. The new report shows a 17% decrease in diagnosis delay in recent years.

“This seven-month improvement is a considerable decrease over a four-year period and reinforces other recent signs that the nation’s approach to HIV prevention is paying off— people at risk for HIV are getting tested more frequently and HIV is being diagnosed sooner after infection,” said Irene Hall, Deputy Director of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention.

Although the average time between infection and diagnosis has decreased, the agency’s report revealed substantial gender and racial disparities. Diagnosis delays were significantly longer in males (3.1 years) compared to females (2.4 years); and in Asians (4.2 years) compared to Caucasians (2.2 years).

The report delved into several potential reasons why diagnosis delays are longer in some populations than in others. Previous research shows that cultural factors – such as fear, stigma, and discrimination – may lead to longer diagnosis delays in some groups.

Data from the fifty states suggest that almost 15% of the 1.1 million persons living with HIV are currently unaware of their positive status. The agency’s strategic plan for HIV prevention aims to cut the rate of undiagnosed HIV infection by 30% over the next three years.

Hall stressed that HIV testing has been essential both to helping newly diagnosed individuals keep the virus under control and to bringing down annual infections.

“It’s encouraging to see hard work paying off, but continued progress is critical,” Hall added. “Ensuring people with HIV know about their infection sooner — and are getting care and treatment — can play a critical role in combatting HIV in the U.S.”

In addition to shorter diagnosis delays, the report also showed improvements in HIV testing rates among gay and bisexual men, injection drug users, and heterosexual persons at high risk.

Researchers who published the report acknowledge that some uncertainties may be introduced when estimating the percentage of undiagnosed infections. Data came from the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention’s HIV Surveillance program. The full report is available to the public on the CDC website.