German Health Experts Concerned That Rising STD Rates Are ‘Early Warning’ of Increase in HIV Incidence
An increase in the number of new cases of sexually transmitted diseases, particularly syphilis, has German health experts concerned that the cases could be an "early warning" of an impending increase in new HIV infections, Reuters Health reports. In the first half of 2002, 1,116 new cases of syphilis were reported, compared with 756 cases during the same time period the previous year, according to the Robert-Koch-Institut, the German equivalent of the CDC. Dr. Osamah Hamouda, head of the institute's HIV/AIDS bureau, told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung that the increase could foreshadow a rise in new HIV cases because it "indicates a willingness" by people to engage in "unprotected sexual contact." Young people who did not witness the "AIDS shock" of the mid-1980s and do not "fully comprehend the need to use condoms" appear particularly susceptible, he said. Hamouda said that advances in HIV/AIDS treatments have "created false hopes" of a cure among many people, adding that prevention efforts must be redoubled. "We must not allow these efforts to weaken. We must not allow the full coverage of AIDS programs to develop more and more and bigger and bigger holes," he said. Susanne Glasmacher, a spokesperson for the institute, said that funding for HIV/AIDS programs in Germany has remained steady over the last three to five years. Hamouda, noting that the number of new German AIDS cases has been increasing "steadily," said he is concerned not only for Germany, but for all of Europe and the United States, which face similar prevention fatigue (Stafford, Reuters Health, 9/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.