July 24, 2002
In the two months since Ventura County began recording the number of new HIV cases to better track the spread of the virus, 120 new cases have been reported. And county health officials estimate there may actually be as many as 1,200 local cases.
As of July 1, California public health officials are requiring doctors and laboratories to report new cases of HIV as well as new cases of AIDS. The county began monitoring cases in May. Public health authorities hope to better understand how many new cases of HIV are occurring and what groups are being affected and to target their education and outreach efforts to those groups.
The California Department of Health Services has recorded 347 patients with AIDS in the county, but without tracking the number of new HIV infections, health officials were unable to closely follow the spread of the virus. Under the new system, doctors and laboratories use an alphanumeric code to report new HIV cases instead of reporting the patient's name. Patients tested at sites where they do not provide their names are not included in the county's records of new cases.
County health officials say it is too soon to determine any definite trends from data compiled from the first 81 reported cases in the county. But they said the data fit existing patterns of HIV infection and that the rising numbers indicate a growing need to increase HIV/AIDS awareness in the community. The data show the majority of the patients were between the ages of 20 and 40 and had contracted the virus through sexual contact. Twice as many males as females were infected. County data also showed that 30 of the first 81 patients were Latino, "the biggest increase we're seeing, given the limited data," said Diana Goulet, project director for Ventura's HIV/AIDS Program.