Concern Over Jump In
HIV Cases In US

By Mark Turner
The Financial Times - UK

UNITED NATIONS -- The number of new HIV diagnoses in 29 US states has risen by more than 5 per cent over the past four years, a new analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed. It also warned that a quarter of Americans living with HIV, the virus that causes Aids, may not be aware of the fact.
According to a study released ahead of World Aids Day, the CDC said the increases marked an "upturn from the previous downward trend in US infections", and underscored an urgent need for action.
Global attention has recently focused upon the crisis in Africa and the spread of Aids in parts of Asia and eastern Europe.
The study said black Americans accounted for more than half of 102,590 people diagnosed with HIV in 29 states between 1999 and 2002. The rate of Aids cases for blacks was 10 times greater than that among whites, and three times greater than that among Latinos.
But the study also showed "significant" increases in new HIV diagnoses among Latinos (26 per cent) and non-Hispanic whites (8 per cent). Diagnoses also increased by 17 per cent among gay and bisexual men, and by 7 per cent among men overall.
The data coincided with recent outbreaks of syphilis in several metropolitan areas, which were "believed to signal increasing levels of unprotected sex among gay and bisexual men".
The CDC said increasingly risky behavior could reflect a belief that HIV was no longer a deadly disease, because of treatment improvements. It could also underline difficulties in maintaining safer behaviors for an extended period, the CDC said.
"These new findings strongly support three key realities," said Dr Julie Gerberding, CDC director. "The HIV epidemic in this country is not over; more often than not the face of HIV in this country is black or Latino; and gay and bisexual men in several communities are facing a possible resurgence of HIV infection.
"Fighting HIV in America is as urgent as it was more than two decades ago when the epidemic began."
The study is based on reported new HIV diagnoses - when an individual learns of his or her infection, and not necessarily when that person became infected. But the study's authors believe that the data "likely represents actual new infections and not a greater amount of testing".
The CDC estimates that between 850,000 and 950,000 Americans are now living with HIV: the largest number since the epidemic began more than two decades ago. It is also estimates that one fourth of the people living with HIV - approximately 180,000 to 280,000 people - remain unaware of their infections. An estimated 40,000 new HIV infections occur in the US each year.
"It's clear that we still face enormous challenges in continuing to confront the AIDS epidemic," said Dr Harold Jaffe, director of CDC's HIV prevention programmes.
© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2003.




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