As of December 2003, about 1.1 million people living in the United States were HIV-positive -- the highest number ever recorded in the country -- and nearly half of those cases are among African Americans, CDC officials said on Monday at the 2005 National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta. In addition, an estimated 25% of HIV-positive individuals are unaware of their HIV status, according to CDC. The increase in the number of HIV/AIDS cases -- up from an estimated 850,000 to 950,000 at the end of 2002 -- reflects the growing number of HIV/AIDS patients who are living longer because of antiretroviral treatment, but it also shows the failure in preventing the spread of the virus, CDC said. The number of HIV/AIDS cases has increased among men in recent years, and the virus is mostly affecting African Americans -- who make up about 47% of the total HIV-positive population -- and men who have sex with men -- who accounted for about 45% of all cases at the end of 2003 -- agency officials said (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/14). Several newspapers recently have published editorials and opinion pieces on the announcement. Some of these are summarized below.
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "With a vaccine against AIDS still years away," the "only effective vaccine available" is to "[t]est often, provide information about risks and encourage responsible behavior," a Journal-Constitution editorial says. The need for a "social vaccine" is especially crucial for African Americans, for whom the disparity in new HIV/AIDS cases is "troubling" and indicative of the "need for renewed efforts" in the fight against the disease, the editorial says (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/15).
- San Diego Union-Tribune: The "awful milestone in America's history with AIDS and HIV" has occurred while "the government is cutting back on AIDS and HIV prevention programs," which are "clearly the most effective way to counter the virus," a Union-Tribune editorial says. "Obviously, treating AIDS or HIV is important, but AIDS remains incurable," the editorial says, concluding, "Governments at all levels must redouble their prevention efforts, especially in minority communities" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/15).
- San Francisco Chronicle: The new data show that "[w]e're not winning this war" against HIV/AIDS, and many "lethal roadblocks remain," a Chronicle editorial says. Controlling the epidemic will be difficult, especially because "state and federal budgets are pinched financially" and "[t]here is little political will for new programs that take years to pay off," the editorial says. Support and funding are needed for "proven" programs -- such as condom distribution, needle exchanges and HIV testing -- the editorial says (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/16).
- Pamela Berry, Jackson Clarion-Ledger: CDC's announcement that more than one million HIV-positive people are living in the United States "is a solid indication the hill leading to conquering the battle with AIDS slopes upward and not down, as some would like to believe," columnist Berry writes in a Clarion-Ledger opinion piece. The announcement also is a "wake-up call that being in denial about the importance of testing and prevention is no longer an option," even for black churches, which should "[s]tep up and reach out," Berry concludes (Berry, Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 6/14).
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Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2004 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.