September 19, 2005
In West Virginia, 65 new HIV/AIDS cases were reported in the first six months of 2005, compared to 139 cases for all of last year, said Dr. Loretta Haddy, the state's epidemiologist. Ten of the 27 West Virginians diagnosed with HIV so far this year are ages 20-29. According to the state's HIV/AIDS & STD Program's Web site, the number of new cases peaked in 2003 at 158.
West Virginia University (WVU), which treats HIV/AIDS patients in Morgantown and Wheeling, saw 30 new cases during the first six months of this year, compared to 41 new cases in all of 2004 -- though those figures may not reflect the number of cases already reported to the state and likely include people from other states.
"Clearly something needs to be done beyond education," said Dr. Arif Sarwari, an infectious-disease specialist and director of WVU's Positive Health Clinic. "We're now dealing with a generation that hasn't seen people die of HIV and AIDS" the way people did in the last two decades, said Sarwari. "The impact of the message decreases when you don't have a direct exposure to the effects of HIV."
According to Haddy, some people may have become complacent about the disease because new medications have allowed HIV/AIDS patients to live longer. What people do not see are the serious side effects, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and exhaustion and "things that make it unable for you to have a good quality of life," she said.
Haddy called for strong education about risky behaviors like unprotected sex, indiscriminate sex, and injection drug use.