HIV Infections Rise, AIDS Cases Decline in Nebraska
The number of new HIV infections reported in Nebraska rose by 53% last year, but the state also experienced a "modest decline" in new reported AIDS cases, the Omaha World-Herald reports. Nebraska officials recorded 87 new HIV infections and 75 new AIDS cases in 2001, compared with 57 HIV infections and 79 AIDS cases in 2000. State health and AIDS prevention officials said that earlier and more targeted HIV testing efforts, as well as advances in antiretroviral treatment, are likely responsible for the decline in the development of AIDS cases among HIV-positive individuals. Dr. Susan Swindells, director of the University of Nebraska Medical Center's HIV clinic, said that antiretroviral treatment has made HIV more "manageable" and is improving the length and quality of life for individuals infected with the virus. However, she said that the rise in reported HIV infections indicates that the state needs to improve HIV prevention efforts. Tina Brubaker, AIDS surveillance coordinator for the Nebraska Health and Human Services System, added that the increase in reported HIV infections could be attributable simply to improvements in targeted HIV testing. Across the country, there is less emphasis on broad public HIV testing and more of a focus on screening "high-risk groups," such as homosexuals, the Omaha World-Herald reports. However, HIV/AIDS prevention officials said that more needs to be done to prevent the "disproportionate" levels of HIV infection among minorities in Nebraska, who represent 13% of the state's population but 38% of its HIV infections reported since 1995. In addition, while the rate of new AIDS cases among whites has declined in comparison with new HIV infections, there has not been a similar decrease among minorities. Jill Jeffrey of the Nebraska AIDS Project said that this disparity could mean that HIV-positive minorities are not obtaining treatment to prevent the development of AIDS as quickly as whites are (Olson, Omaha World-Herald, 4/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.