In 2011 only 30 percent of Americans infected with HIV had the virus under control.
These findings are part of a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that outlines the level of treatment for the estimated 1.2 million people living with the disease. About 50,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.
The Vital Signs report was published in November and the CDC says it underscores the importance of making sure that those living with HIV are receiving ongoing care, treatment and information about transmission prevention.
Consistent use of antiretroviral medication keeps the virus at very low levels in the body, allowing those infected to live longer, healthier lives. Treatment also helps reduce the likelihood that the virus will be transmitted, as it has been shown to reduce sexual transmission by 96 percent.
Of the 70 percent of infected Americans that did not have their virus under control, only 66 percent had been diagnosed, but were not engaged in regular HIV care. The study also found that only 4 percent were engaged in care, but were not prescribed antiretroviral treatment and the 10 percent that were did not receive viral suppression. About 20 percent didn't know that they were infected.
While the study did not find statistically significant differences in viral suppression by race, ethnicity, sex or risk group, the report did find that younger people were less likely to have reached viral suppression than older people. Only 13 percent of those 18 to 24 were virally suppressed compared to 37 percent among those 65 and older. Researchers believe that this is because only about 49 percent of the younger group have been diagnosed.
"It's alarming that fewer than half of HIV-positive young adults know they are infected," Eugene McCray, director of CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention said in a statement. "Closing that gap could have a huge impact on controlling HIV – knowing your status is the first critical step toward taking care of your own health and avoiding transmission to others."
CDC officials believe HIV testing and ongoing treatment will help drive down the epidemic and reduce future infections.