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Number of HIV/AIDS Cases in Maine Increasing, Mirroring National Trend

August 1, 2003

The number of new HIV/AIDS cases in Maine has increased for the first time in several years, according to state Bureau of Health statistics released on Tuesday, the Bangor Daily News reports. Between Jan. 1 and July 24, 2003, 33 new HIV infections were reported in the state, compared with 19 newly reported HIV cases during the same period last year, according to the data. In addition, the bureau has reported 28 new AIDS diagnoses so far this year, compared with 21 new cases during the same period last year. According to the bureau, Maine has 500 reported AIDS cases and 700 reported HIV cases, more than ever before in the state. Mark Griswold, who compiles data for the state's HIV/AIDS program, said that the total number of HIV/AIDS cases in Maine is "tiny," but the increase in new cases is "still very troubling." The increase in new HIV/AIDS cases in the state reflects a national trend (Haskell, Bangor Daily News, 7/30). The CDC on Monday announced at the 2003 National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta that there was a 2.2% overall increase in the number of new U.S. AIDS cases in 2002 and that the number of new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men rose for the third consecutive year in 2002, increasing 7.1% from 2001 to 2002 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/29). Most of Maine's HIV/AIDS cases are among men who have sex with men and injection drug users, according to Griswold.

"Prevention Fatigue"
Griswold and Drew Thomits, educational programs supervisor for the Eastern Maine AIDS Network, said that the increase in HIV/AIDS cases could be attributed to "prevention fatigue" in older MSM and lack of awareness in younger MSM who have not had many friends die of AIDS-related causes, according to the Daily News. "People get tired of hearing 'safe sex' all the time and never 'We've made great strides and now you don't have to worry,'" Thomits said, adding, "When we didn't have effective testing and treatments, people saw wasting and death and all the horrible things that happen with this disease. Now if they know someone [living with HIV/AIDS], they may see them healthy, out working -- they don't see how hard it is to live with AIDS." People are also not getting tested early enough to get effective treatment, according to the Daily News. Griswold said that nearly half of the people who tested HIV-positive between 1998 and 2002 were diagnosed with AIDS within six months, indicating that people are not getting tested until they start having symptoms. Charles Dwyer, manager of Maine's HIV program, said that the state will be launching an awareness campaign in the next few weeks, which will include posters in 1,000 doctor's offices and at nightclubs and other highly visible locations (Bangor Daily News, 7/30).

Increases in Numbers of Other STDs
Griswold added that a similar increase among other sexually transmitted diseases is often seen in conjunction with a rise in new HIV/AIDS cases, suggesting overall changes in sexual behavior among the population, according to the AP/Foster's Daily Democrat. Nine new syphilis cases were reported in the state in the first half of 2003, compared with only one new case in the first half of 2002. In addition, 123 new gonorrhea cases were reported in the first half of 2003, compared with 66 in the first half of 2002, and 1,121 new chlamydia cases were reported in the first half of 2003, compared with 829 over the same period last year (AP/Foster's Daily Democrat, 7/30).

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