Number of New HIV Cases Up 7.1% Among Men Who Have Sex With Men; New U.S. AIDS Cases Up 2.2% Overall
The number of men who have sex with men who were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2002 rose for the third consecutive year last year, rising 7.1% from 2001 to 2002, the CDC announced today at the 2003 National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta, Reuters/Arizona Daily Star reports. The new findings are "fueling fears" that HIV might be making a "major comeback" among MSM, according to Reuters/Daily Star (Reuters/Arizona Daily Star, 7/28). The data, which were collected from 25 states that have long-standing HIV reporting systems, support recent findings showing that MSM remain at high -- and perhaps increasing -- risk for HIV infection, according to a CDC release. HIV diagnoses among MSM have increased by 17.7% since the lowest point in 1999. HIV diagnoses among other high risk groups have remained stable since 2001. However, Dr. Harold Jaffe, director of the CDC National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention, said that the data represent the number of people newly diagnosed, no matter when they were infected, and could reflect both an increase in HIV testing among MSM and a potential increase in new HIV infections (CDC release, 7/28). Standard HIV testing does not reveal when a person was infected with the virus. However, the CDC over the next few months plans to implement a new HIV tracking system, which will be based on data from blood tests that can determine whether a person diagnosed with HIV was infected within the previous six months (Reuters/Arizona Daily Star, 7/28).
The CDC today also announced a 2.2% overall increase in the number of new U.S. AIDS diagnoses and a 5.9% drop in AIDS-related deaths, according to the release. The data suggest an ongoing plateau in the progress made in the fight against AIDS following the introduction of highly active antiretroviral treatment in the mid-1990s. The stability could be due to several factors, including treatment failure, difficulty in adhering to treatment regimens and late diagnoses delaying treatment initiation, Jaffe said. "The AIDS epidemic in the United States is far from over," Jaffe said, adding, "While effective treatments are crucial in our fight against HIV, preventing infection in the first place is still the only true protection against the serious and fatal consequences of this disease" (CDC release, 7/28).
A kaisernetwork.org HealthCast of the session announcing the data will be available online after 5 p.m. ET today. Additional webcasting coverage of the conference is available online.
Paul Zeitz, director of the Global AIDS Alliance, is scheduled to discuss the new data in an online chat on washingtonpost.com at 5 p.m. ET today. Questions and comments may be submitted prior to the beginning of the chat.