Delaware's High HIV Rate Blamed on State's Easy Interstate Access
June 17, 2005
Health care workers in Delaware, which has one of the highest HIV rates in the nation, say the disease is being spread through unsafe sex and drugs along Interstate 95. Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, D.C., all along I-95, have some of the highest AIDS rates in the country.
"If it wasn't for that drive through the state, we'd be all right," said Renee Beaman, executive director of the Wilmington-based Beautiful Gate Outreach Center of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Beautiful Gate offers rapid HIV testing and support groups.
In Delaware, where the annual AIDS rate of 26.1 cases per 100,000 people is much greater than the U.S. rate of 15.2 per 100,000, officials say they need to provide clearer messages about safe sex. The ongoing debate about promoting condoms or abstinence has sent confusing messages, said John Baker, executive director of AIDS Delaware. His group's goal is to alert sexually active people that abstinence is still an option and that condoms provide protection.
Delaware is the only state in the nation without a needle-exchange program for drug users, which could also account for its high infection rate. A bill on needle exchange passed the state Senate and is currently in the House Appropriations Committee. However, even should it become law, getting the word out on health behaviors will be complicated by the fact that many HIV/AIDS agencies have lost resources. In the past year, Beautiful Gate's funding has shrunk from $250,000 to $195,000, with employees cut from 18 to 14.
News Journal (Wilmington, Del.)
06.14.2005; Hiran Ratnayake
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.