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U.S. News

Thousands of Oklahomans Have Died of AIDS

June 14, 2004

Oklahoma health officials are struggling to keep the public aware of the AIDS epidemic, which has been tamed but not conquered. The state Health Department reports that while nearly 4,600 Oklahomans have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, thousands of other people may be infected but undiagnosed.

Although the medicines that emerged in the mid-1990s can keep HIV at bay, they are also contributing to an invisibility of HIV/AIDS patients that may be one cause of a gradual increase in high-risk activities. Authorities say this will bring about a surge in new HIV infections. In 1987, nearly 70 percent of Americans said HIV/AIDS was the nation's most urgent health problem. According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, fewer than 20 percent say that today.

More than 30 percent of Oklahoma high school students who reported being sexually active said they did not use condoms at their last intercourse, according to the 2003 Oklahoma Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Oklahoma's infection rate, which dropped steadily between 1996 and 2001, began to rise slightly beginning in 2002. The state's HIV rate peaked at 16 infections per 100,000 people in 1990, then dropped to a low of four per 100,000 in 2001. Last year, the rate was 4.4 per 100,000. William Pierson, HIV/STD service chief for the Health Department, predicts the slow increase will continue for the foreseeable future. This rise will likely affect minority populations disproportionately. In 2003, 28 percent of Oklahoma's new HIV infections were among blacks, who comprise just 7 percent of the population. At least 3,000 people in the state are HIV-positive and do not know it, according to an estimate from the University of Oklahoma Health Services Center.

Back to other news for June 14, 2004

Adapted from:
The Oklahoman
06.13.04; Judy Gibbs Robinson; Jim Killackey

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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.
See Also
More HIV Statistics on Southwest U.S. States