Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Summarizes Editorials on New Preliminary CDC Data Showing Increase in New AIDS Cases
Several newspapers have published editorials in reaction to new preliminary data released on Monday by the CDC at the 2003 National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta showing an increase in new U.S. AIDS cases and the agency's new HIV prevention policy. The data show a 2.2% overall increase in the number of new U.S. AIDS cases in 2002, compared with 2001. In addition, the number of new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men rose for the third consecutive year in 2002, increasing 7.1% from 2001 to 2002. HIV diagnoses among MSM have increased by 17.7% since the lowest point in 1999; however, HIV diagnoses among other high risk groups have remained stable since 2001. However, fewer people are dying from AIDS-related causes; the number of AIDS-related deaths dropped 5.9% from 2001 to 2002 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/29). According to a new HIV prevention strategy announced in April, the government will invest most heavily in initiatives that focus on identifying people who are already HIV-positive, which could jeopardize approximately $90 million in annual federal funding for community groups. The CDC has said that the current emphasis on community outreach prevention programs has proven ineffective, citing an increase in the number of new HIV cases (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/30). Summaries of some of the editorials follow:
Boston Globe: Despite data showing that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is "growing, not easing," Massachusetts has "radically reduced" funding for the state Department of Public Health's AIDS Bureau, a Globe editorial says, adding that in 18 months, the bureau's budget has dropped from $51 million to $28 million. The state budget also shrinks eligibility requirements for people with AIDS to qualify for treatment coverage under Medicaid; previously, patients with incomes up to 200% of the poverty level qualified for the program, but that has been reduced to people with incomes of up to 133% of the poverty level, according to the editorial. The message from the CDC and the state's health department "is clear," the Globe says, concluding, "Retreating on AIDS funding takes a toll in more AIDS diagnoses and more deaths" (Boston Globe, 7/31).
Cincinnati Enquirer: The CDC's new HIV prevention policy "correctly shifts the focus to the most dangerous facet of this deadly disease, but there is a risk in easing up on successful prevention strategies," an Enquirer editorial says. The new guidelines will "force" AIDS organizations to emphasize the importance of regular HIV testing and educate HIV-positive people about "the fact that AIDS, despite scientific advances, is still ultimately fatal and easily spread through unprotected sex," the editorial says. "It's no longer enough to tell people how not to contract HIV," the Enquirer says, concluding, "We need to start focusing on what people can do once they have it" (Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/30).
Indianapolis Star: Prevention is the key to decreasing the number of new HIV/AIDS cases in the United States, and "helping HIV/AIDS patients curtail their risks as carriers is eminently sound public policy," a Star editorial says. Therefore, state health authorities "should follow CDC's lead in tackling the HIV/AIDS infection rate," the editorial says, adding that the people who can best reverse the increasing rates are "not those who run the risk of contracting HIV but those who already have it" (Indianapolis Star, 7/31).
Virginian-Pilot: Although the number of AIDS-related deaths continues to decrease, "the rise in overall cases is alarming," a Virginian-Pilot editorial says, concluding, "A commitment to AIDS education, treatment and prevention must continue, because the disease hasn't gone away" (Virginian-Pilot, 7/31).
- Washington Times: Many of the new cases of HIV/AIDS in the United States "apparently are being initiated by the conscious choice of one individual to put another at risk, since gay and bisexual men have been so terribly afflicted," a Times editorial says, adding that "[o]ne need not agree with the lifestyle to be appalled at this unnecessary waste of life." The editorial continues, "Gay and bisexual men owe to themselves, not to mention their families and their friends, to follow basic, life-saving precautions." The Times concludes, "Capping the potential volcano of an AIDS explosion will take the conscious choices of those at highest risk" (Washington Times, 7/31).