Authors: Joshua Cohan
(WASHINGTON) -- As 25,000 global experts descend on Washington, D.C., this week for the first International AIDS Conference in the United States in 22 years, they face some sobering statistics: 3 percent of all residents in the nation's capital are infected with the HIV virus.
And with 7 percent of all black males HIV-positive, the city has a higher infection rate than African countries like Ethiopia, Nigeria and Rwanda.
The world might be winning the war on AIDS -- 2.7 million had HIV in 2010, down from 3.2 million a decade earlier -- according to UNAIDS, but the United States, alongside Eastern Europe, has seen a surge of new infections.
Nearly 1.2 million Americans are now living with HIV/AIDS, an all-time high, with nearly 50,000 new infections every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Even with last week's FDA approval of the preventive drug Truvada and antiretrovirus therapies that have virtually eliminated the transmission rate from mother-to-child, a large U.S. population has not reaped the good news.
African-Americans, who represent 14 percent of the U.S. population, account for the largest group, or 44 percent of all new HIV infections and deaths in 2009, according to the Foundation for AIDS Research.
"There is still no cure for AIDS and the fact that we have reduced transmission rates has generated a lot of excitement," said Gail Wyatt, associate director of the UCLA AIDS Institute.
"Our challenges have to do with disparities we have always seen between those who can afford health care and those who are not in the health care system," she said. "We are talking about affordable care and who gets treatment and which populations are disenfranchised and have not gotten care and have no insurance. The same issue has not gone away with the availability of new treatments."
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio