HIV in America: Studies zero in on trouble spots

Tue Aug 16, 2011 6:38pm EDT
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By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. health experts are turning to sophisticated computer mapping technology and electronic medical records to identify pockets of Americans most at risk of HIV infection.

In one study, presented on Tuesday at 2011 National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta, researchers at the Cleveland Department of Public Health saw big improvements in rates of HIV testing when they added reminders to patients' electronic health records about the need for routine testing.

In another, officials in the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health used disease mapping technology to identify HIV-infected patients not getting adequate treatment -- increasing the risk of transmission.

Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the Centers for Disease and Prevention, which sponsored the conference, said the studies, and others like it, will help as the agency implements the National HIV/AIDS Strategy introduced by the White House last summer.

That plan aims to focus resources where HIV is most heavily concentrated -- among gay and bisexual men of all races, blacks and Hispanics.

Currently, about 1.2 million people in the United States are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and about one out of five people who are infected do not know it.

And rates are much higher among high-risk individuals, according to data from a CDC study of 21 cities presented at the meeting by CDC's Dr. Alexandra Oster.

Oster's team found that HIV continues to severely impact three groups at high risk of infection -- men who have sex with men, injection drug users and poor heterosexuals.   Continued...