Rise in Number of New HIV/AIDS Cases Among White Men in St. Louis Reflects National Trend
New HIV/AIDS cases among white men in St. Louis and St. Louis County, Mo., rose 70% last year after several years of decline, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Tim Sullivan, St. Louis Efforts for AIDS executive director, said he was not surprised at the increase in new HIV/AIDS cases among white men in St. Louis because "we saw [the trend] happening nationally." Sullivan and Sheila Grigsby, the St. Louis Health Department's HIV/AIDS surveillance coordinator, said that the rise in new infections over the past few years is a result of people's "perception of the treatment." The development of treatments for HIV/AIDS "has led people, particularly the young white males, to believe if they get infected, they can take a pill. They equate the medication to a cure, which there is not," Sullivan said, adding that some HIV-positive people "must endure a difficult [drug] regimen, sometimes taking as many as 52 pills a day" and sometimes "suffering" from side effects. HIV/AIDS treatment advancements in recent years "have made it difficult to reach the latest generation" with prevention messages, Sullivan said, adding that AIDS-related deaths "aren't as ugly and painful as they used to be." Health department statistics also show a similar increase among white males in the Missouri counties of St. Clair and Madison. St. Louis Efforts for AIDS' "new strategy" for reducing the number of HIV/AIDS cases focuses on one-on-one counseling and education among HIV-positive people to reduce transmission of the virus.
Black Men Still Constitute 'Bulk' of New HIV Cases
Although the number of St. Louis-area white men testing HIV-positive increased for the first time in three years, the number still "fall[s] short" in comparison with the number of African-American men who continue to "make up the bulk" of new HIV cases in St. Louis. The St. Louis health department reports that there were 195 new cases of HIV or AIDS among black men in 2001, compared with 129 among white men. With 116 cases per 100,000 black men, compared with 28 cases per 100,000 white men, African-American men contract HIV at four times the rate among white men. HIV/AIDS "is running rampant in the black community," Grigsby said, adding that she expects the number of HIV-positive African Americans to continue to increase as testing in the community increases. The number of new HIV/AIDS cases among African-American men rose 17% in 2001. In addition, St. Louis health department statistics show that African-American women represent 84% of the HIV/AIDS cases among women in St. Louis, a fact that "continues to concern" health officials, who attribute the rise in cases to sexual contact with bisexual men, sex in exchange for money or substance use. Agencies like St. Louis Efforts for AIDS, Blacks With AIDS and Connect Care now target "everyone," not just those at high risk for contracting HIV (Hollinshed, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/24).