Complacency About HIV/AIDS in Western Nations Could Lead to Resurgence of Disease, Study Says
Young people in the West are living a "lifestyle almost in ignorance of the threat of AIDS," a trend that could lead to a resurgence of HIV in the developed world if additional prevention efforts are not made, according to a British study released on Saturday, Reuters Health reports. Datamonitor, a London-based consulting group, stated in the report that while about 900,000 Americans have HIV, that number could double by 2010 if HIV trends continue unabated. People under age 30 in the West have grown up "believing that HIV is not something that will affect them," and as a result, many are not practicing safe sex, the report states. Datamonitor found that only 12% of girls and 8% of boys in the United Kingdom between ages 14 and 15 said that they were concerned about contracting HIV, compared to 35% of girls and 28% of boys in 1993 (Woodman, Reuters Health, 5/6). Young people may also be suffering from "safe-sex fatigue" after being inundated with safe-sex messages in the 1980s and early 1990s, the report suggests. "It's a terribly growing problem, not only among young people, but among gay men as well," Dr. Mark Wainberg, director of the AIDS center at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, said. He added that condom usage is "waning because of the ridiculous notion that some people have that they don't need to protect others or, in some cases, protect themselves" (Vallis, National Post, 5/4). The resurgence of HIV could be even more problematic because of the rise in drug-resistant strains of the virus, caused in part by patients skipping treatment doses to avoid uncomfortable side effects. The report states, "Doctors are forced to prescribe different drugs to compensate for this. However, with a total of only 20 or so currently marketed anti-HIV drugs available, the inherent problems are obvious." Datamonitor, which is currently compiling a list of "key growth countries" for HIV, warns that Western nations must redouble their HIV/AIDS prevention efforts to avoid a resurgence of the epidemic. "Those responsible for social education, including governments, parents and health care providers, must take assertive decisive action to reduce complacency and increase awareness about HIV," the report states, citing the aggressive government campaigns in the 1980s and 1990s that led to declines in sexually transmitted diseases (Reuters Health, 5/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.