Illinois AIDS Cases Declined 34% in 2001; Blacks and Gays Continue to be Disproportionately Affected
The number of new AIDS cases in Illinois declined 34% last year to reach an 11-year low, but blacks and gay men continued to be disproportionately affected, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Overall, new AIDS cases fell to 1,212 in 2001 from 1,824 in 2000, and cases in Chicago declined from 1,229 in 2000 to 763 last year. Although the decline is encouraging, especially in light of reports from other areas of the country showing an increase in new cases, the dramatic drop is probably attributable to physicians reporting cases in 2000 that had not previously been reported and not to better prevention, the Sun-Times reports. "I think it would be crazy for us this year to say we were able to reduce cases by 34%. That's not what happened. We believe physicians did better reporting" in 2000, Tom Schafer, a spokesperson for the state health department, explained, adding that the use of antiretroviral drugs may have also led to a decline in new AIDS cases by slowing disease progression.
Bad News for Blacks and Gays
Although overall AIDS cases continued to decline, gay men and blacks remained disproportionately affected, with black gay men "hit hardest." Blacks account for 15% of the state's population but made up 58% of all AIDS cases in 2001. The number of AIDS cases among gay men declined to 472 last year from 650 in 2000, but gay men still accounted for nearly half of all AIDS cases among men. The health department has designated $2.7 million in its budget for HIV/AIDS awareness programs operated by hospitals and social service agencies in an attempt to correct the disparities. Since 1981, 26,198 people in Illinois have been diagnosed with AIDS, the sixth-highest number in the country (Milhizer, Chicago Sun-Times, 2/2).