More than million Americans are living with HIV, but most of them aren’t getting the treatment they need to keep the virus under control, according to a new study from the CDC.
The goal for people who take HIV drugs is to achieve what’s called viral suppression. When they’re able to control the virus, they live longer and are less likely to pass the disease on. But according to the CDC, of those who know they have HIV, more than two-thirds of them aren’t there.
Part of the reason is, the drug regime can be tough to keep up with.
“Taking treatment for an infection that may have no symptoms and that you need to take for life is not easy,” said CDC director Tom Friedan.
At hospitals like Emory, doctors are trying to address some of the root causes of why people might not be able to keep up with treatment.
“We know some of the issues may be related to poverty, to transportation, to socioeconomic status, to insurance, to housing,” said Carlos Del Rio, a professor of medicine at Emory and chair of the Department of Global Health at the Rollins School of Public Health. “There’s many different social determinants of health that impact how you take care of yourself.”
Another problem, especially for young people, is if they don’t know they have the disease in the first place.
“An HIV test should be as simple to access as a cholesterol check,” said Jonathan Mermin, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.
And if they are diagnosed, the CDC recommends that people begin treatment as soon as possible.