January 17, 2014
This article was reported by Bay Area Reporter.
The Bay Area Reporter recently reported that San Francisco health officials are concerned about the first increase in new HIV cases in more than six years. The city reported 413 new HIV cases in 2012, compared with 406 reported in 2011. While the increase is small, there is concern that results have leveled off from prevention efforts, which aim to reduce new cases among gay and bisexual men as well as transgender persons by 50 percent in 2015.
City officials, who admittedly do not know the cause of the increase, hope it will not continue; the most recent surveillance report shows a decrease of HIV diagnoses in the first half of 2013, with 17 fewer cases than the first six months of 2012. "I think it is a really good time to look closely at all the data we have in combination. I don't think we have enough information yet to say it is not decreasing significantly," said Tracey Packer, San Francisco Department of Public Health's director of community health equity and promotion.
According to Henry Fisher Raymond, an epidemiologist with the department's Public Health Research Branch, San Francisco should have reported fewer than 400 cases in 2012 to confirm an ongoing decrease, which is why the 2012 increase is troubling. He counters, however, that the increase may be an effect of increased testing efforts. "We are paying very much attention to if this is a welcome artifact of increased testing," said Raymond.
Packer supports the notion of increased testing as a cause for new HIV infections due to the implementation of the "test and treat" policy. The policy urges testing for everyone at risk to get them into treatment as soon as possible. She noted that testing increased by more than 50 percent between 2010 and 2013.