By: Jackie Jones
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention program to increase testing and knowledge of HIV status among African Americans has been so successful that it is being extended for three years and expanded to increase other at-risk groups, according to a statement from the CDC.
About $142.5 million will be spent over the next three years to help state and local health departments across the country increase access to testing and early diagnosis of HIV/AIDS.
While African Americans have been among the most at risk, gay and bisexual men, as well as male and female Latinos and injection drug users, will also be targeted in the program.
“HIV testing is a crucial step in reducing new HIV infections, so that those infected with HIV can be linked to medical care and ongoing support to help them maintain safer behaviors,” Kevin Fenton, M.D., director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said in a statement announcing the extension of program. “This expansion will help ensure that more Americans have access to what could be life-saving information about their HIV status.”
More than 10,000 HIV-infected individuals were newly diagnosed, with 75 percent linked to care in the first two years of the current three-year program, which began in 2007. Sixty-two percent of the tests were conducted among African-American men and women.
“Far too many Americans with HIV – more than 200,000 people – are unaware of their infection and may be unknowingly transmitting the virus to others,” Jonathan Mermin, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said in the announcement. “The expansion of this initiative reflects CDC’s continued commitment to ensure that far more Americans are tested for HIV, especially among vulnerable men and women most in need of HIV services.”
Eligible jurisdictions may now apply for the funds, which will be awarded in August for the three-year initiative that begins in September. The number of areas eligible for this cycle of funding has been increased from 25 to 30 jurisdictions, representing the most severe HIV epidemics among African Americans, Latinos, injection drug users, and gay and bisexual men of all races.