News & Commentary

CDC: More than 1 in 10 Americans with HIV are undiagnosed


Approximately 1.2 million Americans were living with HIV in 2012, but 153,600 (12.8%) didn’t know it, according to CDC researchers, who argue that health policymakers need to more fully implement HIV testing. The study, published in the June 26, 2015, issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, uses data from the National HIV Surveillance System to estimate how many people have undiagnosed HIV in each state and the District of Columbia.

Percentage of people living with HIV who had not yet been diagnosed (as of 2012)

*The estimated undiagnosed HIV prevalence was calculated by subtracting the estimated number of diagnosed HIV infections in living persons from the number of persons included in estimated overall HIV prevalence.

**Estimates for jurisdictions with fewer than 60 diagnoses per year (average) over the most recent five years (2008–2012) are considered numerically unstable.

Source: CDC, “Prevalence of Diagnosed and Underdiagnosed HIV Infection—United States, 2008–2012,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, June 26, 2015.

The stakes are high. “Persons unaware of their [HIV] infection contribute nearly one third of ongoing transmission in the United States,” the study states. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that Americans age 15 to 65 be tested for HIV at least once. People at increased risk—including men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs—should be tested at regular intervals.

The national goal is for 90% or more people who are infected with HIV to have a diagnosis, because early treatment lengthens the infected person’s life and reduces the risk of transmission. “Because the percentage of persons with undiagnosed HIV varies by geographical area, efforts tailored to each area’s unique circumstances might be needed to increase the percentage of persons aware of their infection,” the study states.

Among men who have sex with men—who make up about 60% of Americans diagnosed with HIV each year—the percentage with HIV who had received an HIV diagnosis was as low as 75% in Louisiana. Only a handful of jurisdictions were above the goal of 90% or more.