March 28, 2003
New HIV infections in Wisconsin reached a six-year high in 2002, suggesting that unprotected sex and other risk behaviors are on the rise. The total number of new cases last year was 390, up 16 percent from the 336 reported in 2001. "That's a significant increase," said Dr. James Vergeront, who heads the state's HIV/AIDS program, but not significantly higher than the 372 to 389 cases reported annually during the 1998-2000 period. More than 4,850 people in Wisconsin are known to be living with HIV; many others have the virus but do not know it. HIV/AIDS is growing fastest among minorities in the state. According to Vergeront, 54 percent of cases reported between 2000 and 2002 are among minorities, who make up 12 percent of Wisconsin's population. Compared to whites, infection rates are 6.5 times higher among Hispanics and 14 times higher among blacks.