Washington State AIDS Case Numbers Increasing, Especially Among Women, Minorities
The number of AIDS cases in Washington state increased last year for the first time in nine years, and a higher percentage of those cases are being reported among women and minorities, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. Although still only a third of the 1993 peak of 995 cases, 385 new AIDS cases were reported last year, compared to 364 in 1999 (Paulson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 5/16). Officials said that "level[ing] off" of cases from the "dramatic drop" seen with the advent of HAART five years ago is "worrisome." The success of the drugs "lulled us into thinking you only have to take a pill" to control AIDS, state health officer Maxine Hayes said, adding that "clearly there is no cure." Hayes and epidemiologist Maria Courogen announced the findings Tuesday at a meeting of the Governor's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (King, Seattle Times, 5/16). Courogen said she expects the 2000 total to increase even more as more complete figures are calculated. Dr. Robert Wood, director of HIV/AIDS Control for Public Health-Seattle and King County, said officials "don't really know" what is causing the increase in AIDS cases, but speculated that it could be attributable to "diminished effectiveness" of anti-AIDS medications, viral resistance, "poor patient adherence" to complicated drug regimens, "inadequate access" to treatment among some "high-risk" groups, or simply a "statistical fluctuation." However, HIV case tracking suggests that the increase in cases is a "real and troubling trend" and indicates that some people are no longer heeding safe-sex messages, Wood added, pointing to recent STD "outbreaks" among gay men (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 5/16).
A Changing Demographic
AIDS is still a disease that primarily affects white men in Washington, but women now account for 14% of AIDS cases and 18% of new HIV infections statewide. The percentage of African Americans with the disease has doubled to 16%, while the number of Hispanics has tripled to 9%, although they comprise just 3% and 7.5% of the state's overall population, respectively (Seattle Times, 5/16). Women and minorities in Pierce and Kitsap Counties appear to be hardest hit by the increase in AIDS cases. Women account for 28% of the AIDS cases in those counties, nearly double the state average, and 32% of new HIV infections in the two counties. African Americans make up 20% of AIDS cases in the area. Statistics for the two counties also show that AIDS patients in the region "tend to be poorer, have lower educational levels and include a higher percentage of injection drug users, teenagers and children" (Carson, Tacoma News Tribune, 5/16).