The United States has significantly underreported the number of new HIV infections occurring nationally each year, with a study showing that the annual infection rate is 40 percent higher than previously estimated.

The study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and released here on Saturday, found that 56,300 people became newly infected with HIV in 2006, compared with the 40,000 figure the agency has cited as the recent annual incidence of the disease.

The findings confirm that HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has its greatest effect among gay and bisexual men of all races (53 percent of all new infections) and among African-American men and women.

The new figures are likely to strongly influence a number of decisions about efforts to control the epidemic, said the disease centers’ director, Dr. Julie Gerberding, and other AIDS experts.

Timely information about trends in HIV transmission, they said, is essential for planning and evaluating prevention efforts and the money spent on them.

Gerberding said the new findings were “unacceptable,” adding that new efforts must be made to lower the infection rates. “We are not effectively reaching men who have sex with men and African-Americans to lower their risk,” she said.

Read full article here.

Lawrence K. Altman – New York Times – Aug. 3, 2008.

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