U.S. AIDS experts on Friday said that although about 40,000 Americans become infected with HIV every year, the numbers would have been enormously higher without HIV prevention efforts, including programs promoting condom use. Prevention programs have saved hundreds of thousands--if not millions--of lives over the course of the epidemic.
"We have prevented enough HIV infections to be the equivalent of the population of a small to large U.S. city," said David Holtgrave, a former AIDS expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who now teaches health policy at Emory University in Atlanta. He came up with four different scenarios for the course of the AIDS epidemic in the United States. The number of potential infections prevented through AIDS prevention efforts ranged from 200,000 to more than 1.5 million, he wrote in his report, published in the journal AIDS.
An estimated 5 million Americans are at risk of getting HIV: 1 million drug users, who can be infected from shared needles, and 4 million men and women at risk of being infected sexually. Most prevention programs target these groups. "They include HIV counseling and testing, risk reduction counseling, and small group risk-reduction interventions," Holtgrave said.
But Holtgrave added that despite preventing such large numbers of HIV infections, prevention programs aren't receiving additional funding from the government. "To really give everybody at risk of HIV infection in the United States really state-of-the-science prevention services, you would probably need to increase prevention efforts by $3 million a year for four years," he said. "We're not seeing that kind of expansion." The current federal budget provides no more money than last year for HIV prevention efforts.