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Prevention/Epidemiology

AIDS: It Hasn't Gone Away

August 19, 2003

Increasing new cases of HIV infection, and the rise in the number of new AIDS cases for the first time in a decade, are causing concern among health officials. Experts worry that the statistics reflect a growing sense of complacency about the disease, especially among homosexual and bisexual men, among whom new HIV infection rates rose 7.1 percent last year.

The increase in HIV cases cannot be attributed to a single group, CDC experts say, but people in their 20s account for a sizable number of new diagnoses, as well as diagnoses for other STDs. The data suggest young people are not heeding advice about condom use and the hazards of unprotected sex. Rising numbers of HIV diagnoses may also be attributed to an increase in substance abuse and the fact that more people are being tested.

Because sophisticated drug regimens allow HIV/AIDS patients to live longer, some people believe that AIDS is no longer a serious threat. However, there is still no cure for AIDS; the medications can have severe side effects; and some patients' bodies resist the therapy, according to Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, deputy director of CDC's National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention.

"The improvements in treatment are wonderful," Valdiserri said, "but unfortunately it minimizes the threat of HIV and AIDS. People say, 'Isn't that cured, like syphilis?'"

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Health officials and AIDS groups are concerned that many new diagnoses occur among ethnic minorities. One CDC report found that more than half of newly diagnosed HIV infections in 2001 were among African Americans.

Few people are optimistic that the numbers will begin to decline anytime soon. "It is bleak," said Thomas Coates, outgoing director of the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies at the University of California-San Francisco. "What we need to learn is that prevention is a lot more cost effective than treatment."

Back to other news for August 19, 2003

Adapted from:
Los Angeles Times
08.18.03; Jeannine Stein



  
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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.
 

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