September 7, 2017
This article originally appeared on The Body.
How do we know our national efforts to fight HIV are working? One of the best measures for answering this question is the annual number of new HIV diagnoses, which provides a proxy for new HIV infections when interpreted along with other data. Preventing new HIV infections is our number one goal.
The National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) sets our target for reducing the number of new diagnoses by at least 25% to 32,855 or fewer newly diagnosed HIV infections by 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Monitoring Report (PDF, 2.31MB) from July 2017 shows us that in 2014 there were 40,873 new HIV diagnoses. This exceeded the 2014 NHAS annual target of 41,068.
As we achieve our goals for HIV prevention, care, and treatment, then new diagnoses should fall, but data must be interpreted with consideration for trends in HIV testing, as changes in testing can lead to changes in diagnosis trends that are not related to trends in new infections. And falling rates of HIV diagnoses is exactly what we’ve seen. We’ve been able to change the course of the epidemic because we were able to implement advances in HIV prevention, testing, and treatment that have led to dramatic shifts not only in reducing diagnoses but among many of the other NHAS indicators as well.
In the Monitoring Report, progress for diagnoses is assessed for years that have at least 18 months of reporting delay and are considered final. The most recent year for which data are available only have 6 months of reporting delay so they are considered preliminary and progress is not assessed. As a result, 2014 data are reported as final, and 2015 is reported as preliminary.