Wyoming Still Struggling with AIDS 25 Years Later
June 7, 2006
AIDS cases in Wyoming declined in the late 1990s, but 2004 saw the largest number of new HIV/AIDS cases since 1997. So far, the 2005 figure is on track to be slightly below the 2004 number. As of June 2005, 193 people in Wyoming were living with HIV. Since 1984, AIDS has killed 117 state residents.
For the first time, last year the number of new infections attributed to intravenous drug use (seven) topped the number associated with sex between men (three). Methamphetamine use may be behind the increase among drug injectors.
According to Pamela Reamer Williams, executive director of the Wyoming AIDS Project, and Rob Johnston, HIV/AIDS prevention coordinator with the state Department of Health, Wyoming presents some unique prevention challenges. These include conservative communities that discourage people from sharing information about their sexual orientation and serostatus, and a general reluctance to talk about issues related to sex and drugs.
This in turn makes HIV-positive people hesitant to reveal their status, furthering the presumption that AIDS only happens to gay white men. In fact, Reamer Williams said, the patients she works with include ex-wives of drug injectors.
Access to HIV testing, treatment and care has been improved in the state, Johnston said. But all the state's prevention money comes from the federal government, and this funding has been cut in the past three years. Recently, the Legislature has allocated more state money for hepatitis vaccination and treatment. Because several forms of hepatitis are common among groups also at high risk for HIV, Johnston is hopeful the hepatitis outreach will encourage more people to learn their HIV status and, if necessary, access treatment sooner.
06.06.06; Jennifer Frazer
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This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.