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LGBTQ Nation: New HIV infections dropped since 2021, according to CDC data


New HIV infections in the U.S. dropped by 12 percent between 2017 and 2021, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday. Still, despite that progress, the U.S. is not on track to meet its goal of reducing new infections by 90 percent by 2030, officials said, in part due to pandemic disruptions and disparities in access to preventive care.

In a statement, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky noted that while the nation’s HIV prevention efforts are moving in the right direction, “Longstanding factors, such as systemic inequities, social and economic marginalization and residential segregation, however, stand between highly effective HIV treatment and prevention and people who could benefit from them.”

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According to the report, young people saw the biggest drop in infections, with new infections down 34 percent among 13- to 24-year-olds. But while new infections among white gay and bisexual men between ages 13 and 24 dropped by 45 percent, infections among Latinos dropped by 36 percent, and infections dropped by only 27 percent among Black men, indicating persistent racial disparities in access to preventive medications.

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While the percentage of people at the highest risk of contracting HIV taking pre-exposure prophylaxis medication, or PrEP, increased from 13 percent in 2017 to 30 percent in 2021, only 11 percent of Black people and 21 percent of Latinos at risk of infection received the preventive meds, CNBC notes, compared to 78 percent of at-risk white people.

As Politico notes, more than half of new HIV infections in 2021 were reported in Southern states where Republican lawmakers have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In January, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) announced his administration was rejecting $8.8 million in federal funds provided by the CDC for HIV prevention and treatment.

A federal judge’s decision earlier this year to strike down a provision of the ACA requiring employee health insurance plans to cover PrEP at no cost also threatens access to the highly effective HIV-prevention medication. The Biden Administration is appealing the ruling, which has been put on hold by a federal appeals court.

But as CDC director of HIV prevention Demetre Daskalakis told Politico last month, “Anything that hinders health care access, especially for marginalized communities, will end up in fewer people being on PrEP, and more people getting HIV.”

Following the release of the CDC data this week, Daskalakis told Politico that the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ state laws sweeping the nation could also prevent queer and trans people from seeking preventive care. “When you send the message to people that you don’t care about their lives, it’s then hard to convince them that you care about their lives,” he said.

Meanwhile, Carl Schmid, executive director of the HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute, warned that cuts to public health funding in a potential debt ceiling deal between the Biden administration and congressional Republicans could have dire consequences for HIV testing, case investigation, and treatment. “This will result in new infections, more people living with HIV and the need to provide lifetime care and treatment,” Schmid said.

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