HIV Rates Rose in North Carolina in 2001, Despite Decline in STD Rates
New STD infections in North Carolina "declined slightly" in 2001, despite a rise in the state's HIV rate, the Raleigh News & Observer reports. The number of syphilis cases declined from 1,101 infections in 2000 to 943 new infections in 2001, continuing a "downward trend" that began five years ago when federal, state and local prevention efforts began to focus on the disease. New cases of gonorrhea also fell to 16,734 in 2001 compared to 17,996 the year before, and the number of new chlamydia cases remained constant at about 22,177. "It's encouraging. If you ask, 'Is there anything different in the way we collected information or whether we are doing less testing,' the answer to the question is no. We're doing more testing, and we have better tests now to find STDs. For syphilis, we're doing more screening," Dr. Peter Leone, medical director of Wake County's STD clinic, said, adding that the Wake County Health Department has increased STD screenings by 20% to 30%.
HIV on the Rise
In contrast to other STD numbers, new HIV infections rose from 1,467 in 2000 to 1,601 in 2001. However, the number of vertical transmission cases fell from five to one. "The good news is that we are actually seeing something positive happening, which we expected to see when we noticed a drop in mother-to-child transmission," Del Williams, manager for epidemiology and special studies at the state Department of Health and Human Services, said. Leone added that as the number of other STDs declines he expects HIV infections to fall because people with other STDs are at greater risk of acquiring the virus. However, he recommended that the state remain vigilant. "It's going to take a while. We have reason to be optimistic that we are making some headway, but I think it's important to realize there are limitations in terms of what the numbers mean. The diseases we're talking about are highly dependent on testing. As the numbers begin to go down, that is not the time to stop testing. In North Carolina, we need to continue to push for screening and education in order to prevent people from acquiring diseases," he explained (Avery, Raleigh News & Observer, 1/17).