US progress in HIV fight continues to trail many other rich nations

New transmissions declined by 12% nationally between 2017 and 2021, and racial disparities have abated only slightly during this time period, according to a new CDC report.

Transmission electron micrograph (TEM), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), co-cultivated with human lymphocytes. Image courtesy CDC/A. Harrison, P. Feorino, E. L. Palmer, 1984. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images). (Smith Collection/Gado, Getty Images)

New HIV infections continue to ebb only modestly in the United States, while many other wealthy Western nations have posted steep reductions, thanks to more successful efforts overseas to promptly diagnose and treat the virus and promote the HIV prevention pill, PrEP.

In a new HIV surveillance report published Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that new HIV transmissions declined by 12% nationally between 2017 and 2021, from 36,500 to 32,100 cases.

By comparison, according to estimates by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, between 2015 and 2021, the annual infection rate plunged by more than 70% in the Netherlands, 68% in Italy and 44% in Australia. United Kingdom health authorities recorded about 2,700 diagnoses in England in 2021 — a drop of approximately one-third since 2017 and one-half since 2015.

Experts told NBC News that the U.S. remains so far behind in combating HIV because of the nation’s lack of a national health care system and sexual-health clinic network; fragmented and underfunded public health systems; and poorer synchronization between government, academia, health care and community-based organizations.

Read the full report from NBC News.