Number of New AIDS Cases Reported in Illinois Lowest Since 1998, Report Says
The number of new AIDS cases reported in Illinois in 2003 was the lowest number reported in the state since 1998, according to statistics released on Tuesday by the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Chicago Daily Southtown reports (Chicago Daily Southtown, 2/18). According to the data, 1,301 new AIDS cases were reported statewide in 2003, down 42% from 2002. Most of the 2003 cases were reported in the Chicago area, which recorded 1,164 cases, or 89% of the statewide total, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Madison County reported one new AIDS case in 2003, compared with eight new cases in 2002, and St. Clair County reported nine new cases in 2003, down from 10 cases in 2000. In addition, 50% of the newly reported AIDS cases in 2003 were among African Americans, although they account for only 15.6% of the state's population. Whites accounted for 36% of the cases. The majority of the AIDS cases -- 79% -- were among men. Among those men, 61% of the cases were associated among men who had sex with men and 20% were associated with injection drug use. Approximately 45% of the new AIDS cases among women stemmed from heterosexual activity and 25% of the cases were linked to injection drug use.
Cause for Concern?
Dr. Eric Whitaker, director of the state's public health department, said that the 2002 figures could have been "artificially high" because of an effort that year in Chicago to document previously unrecorded cases, according to the Post-Dispatch (Wallheimer, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/18). A similar drop in the number of newly recorded AIDS cases occurred in 2001 after a 2000 state effort to inform health care providers about a new HIV reporting system, the Daily Southtown reports. Debbie Hinde, CEO of Vital Bridges, a Chicago-based HIV/AIDS community organization, said, "There's always a lag between what's reported and what's happening. In some ways a year doesn't mean much. ... We certainly don't see fewer people coming to us." Tom Hughes, deputy director of health protection for the state's public health department, said, "The fact that we have a decline is great, but one year is certainly not a trend. We don't want to be complacent." AIDS Foundation of Chicago Executive Director Mark Ishaug said, "While I want to celebrate, we need to know about HIV," adding, "Our success will be measured by how we bring down" the estimated 1,600 to 2,000 new HIV cases that occur in the state each year (Chicago Daily Southtown, 2/18). Whitaker added, "In the past few years, not much has changed with the AIDS epidemic. It is a preventable disease that we know how it is transmitted, but people continue to make risky choices" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/18).