Number of New HIV Cases Among Men Who Have Sex With Men Increases in Maine
The number of newly reported HIV cases among men who have sex with men in Maine is growing, leading some HIV/AIDS advocates to believe that the group is "headed for a health crisis," the Portland Press Herald reports. The number of newly reported HIV cases in the state has been stable over the past few years, but HIV cases among MSM represent a "growing proportion" of cases, with MSM comprising 71% of the 41 new HIV infections reported in the state this year, up from 38% of the 51 cases in 2000, according to the Press Herald. Mark Griswold, an epidemiologist with the state's HIV/STD program, said that the numbers could signal that a "resurgence of HIV [is] around the corner." The increased incidence among MSM is likely due to increases in high-risk behavior and complacency about HIV/AIDS because older MSM may be "growing tired" of being vigilant about prevention and young MSM "trust" that they can rely on antiretroviral drugs to maintain their health, according to the Press Herald.
Compared With National Trends
Federal health officials have noticed a national increase in new infections among MSM for several years, but Maine health experts say that the trend took longer to appear in the state because of Maine's small population, the Press Herald reports (Huang, Portland Press Herald, 11/9). Nationally, the number of MSM who were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2002 rose for the third consecutive year last year, rising 7.1% from 2001 to 2002, according to the CDC. 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 of HIV infection. 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/28). The possibility of an HIV resurgence among MSM in Maine seems "more likely" because the number of MSM being diagnosed with other sexually transmitted diseases also has increased, according to the Associated Press. MSM comprise 44% of the 142 gonorrhea cases reported this year, up from 34% of the 90 cases reported in 2000 (Associated Press, 11/10). In addition, MSM represent approximately three-quarters of the state's 11 reported syphilis cases this year, according to the Press Herald.
Charles Dwyer, coordinator of the state's HIV/STD program, said there are "plans to retool" the prevention programs because the safe-sex message has "grown stale," particularly for younger men. Officials at the Frannie Peabody Center, one of Maine's largest AIDS organizations, said that they have "long supported" a revised prevention message, according to the Press Herald. George Friou, executive director of the Peabody Center said, "We need to get people involved, explaining and talking," adding, "That's a real strong message" (Portland Press Herald, 11/9).