AIDS transmission rate plummets in U.S., study finds

Tue Dec 9, 2008 3:44pm EST
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By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - AIDS transmission rates have plummeted in the United States and only 5 percent of Americans infected with the AIDS virus will infect someone else in any given year, researchers reported on Tuesday.

They said prevention efforts are working, even though the number of people infected with HIV has risen.

The transmission rate has dropped 88 percent since 1984 and 33 percent since 1997, the team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

"For every 100 persons living with HIV today, five or fewer will transmit the virus to an uninfected person in a given year," said David Holtgrave of Johns Hopkins, who led the study.

Holtgrave and colleagues based their analysis on the CDC's latest data on infections with the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, which causes AIDS. In October, the CDC said 1.1 million Americans have the incurable virus and said in August that 56,300 become newly infected each year.

HIV is not especially easy to transmit. It is passed in blood and other bodily fluids such as semen and breast milk, but not by casual contact, sneezing, kissing or on surfaces.

In the United States, it is mostly passed among men who have sex with men, although globally heterosexual transmission is more common.

Condoms are the best way to prevent transmission during sex. Male circumcision has been shown to help reduce transmission from a man to a woman, but not from man to man.   Continued...