Number of New U.S. HIV Infections Holds Steady; Proportion of Cases Among Blacks, MSM Increases, CDC Data Say
The number of new HIV infections in the United States continued to hold steady last year, with approximately 40,000 new HIV cases reported, according to data published Wednesday in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in observance of World AIDS Day, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. According to data collected in 32 states, 19.7 people per 100,000 population were diagnosed as HIV-positive from 2000 to 2003 -- an increase of 1% from the previous 19.5 people per 100,000. CDC estimates that the total number of HIV-positive people in the United States has reached 950,000, and an estimated 280,000 of those people do not know that they are HIV-positive, according to Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, deputy director of CDC's National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention (Yee, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 12/1). However, Valdiserri warned that the data are "imperfect" because only the 32 states that have conducted confidential name-based HIV testing for at least four years are included, according to the Miami Herald. Therefore, California and New York were not included in the study, which analyzed only 49% of AIDS cases in the United States. Data from California and New York will be added in the next two years, according to the Herald (Tasker, Miami Herald, 12/2).
The number of new HIV infections has remained steady since the 1990s despite a "government pledge" in 2001 to "break the back" of the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2005, according to the AP/Journal-Constitution (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 12/1). CDC in 2001 announced its Serostatus Approach to Fighting the HIV Epidemic, or SAFE program, a new effort intended to cut in half the number of new HIV infections by 2005. The program was based on the assumption that many people contract HIV from HIV-positive people who appear healthy and do not know they are infected. The program intended to reduce the number of new HIV infections from 40,000 to 20,000 annually by 2005 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/7/01). However, CDC "shifted gears" last year and focused on providing counseling on safer-sex practices to people aware of their HIV-positive status in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus, according to the AP/Journal-Constitution (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 12/1).
Men Who Have Sex With Men
Although the overall rate of new HIV infections in the United States remained stable over the past four years, the number of new HIV/AIDS cases among men who have sex with men increased by 11% during the same period, according to the study. The increase has "rais[ed] fears of a new outbreak" of HIV/AIDS in a group experts have said is becoming increasingly casual about taking protective measures," the Los Angeles Times reports (Maugh, Los Angeles Times, 12/2). While HIV diagnoses increased 5% among men in general between 2000 and 2003, the increase among MSM was "foreshadowed" by three years of rising syphilis rates in the population, according to USA Today (Sternberg, USA Today, 12/2). The increase may be the result of "complacency" spurred by effective antiretroviral drugs and the "time that has elapsed since the initial ravages of the epidemic," the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 12/2). "This is not a trend we want to ignore," Valdiserri said, adding, "We need to make sure the leadership in the gay community understands the importance of tracking this very carefully" (Simao, Reuters/Yahoo! News, 12/1).
The report also indicates that HIV/AIDS has "tightened its grip" on the African-American community, according to USA Today. Fifty-one percent of all new HIV diagnoses between 2000 and 2003 were among African Americans, who make up only 13% of the U.S. population. African-American men accounted for the highest rate of new HIV diagnoses -- 103.5 diagnoses per 100,000 population -- which is seven times the rate among white men and three times the rate among Latinos. The HIV diagnosis rate among African-American women was 53 diagnoses per 100,000 population, which is 18 times the rate among white women and five times greater than the rate among Latinas (USA Today, 12/2). Overall, African-American women accounted for 69% of new diagnoses among women. "The number of women of color in the United States that continue to be affected by this devastating disease is quite sobering," HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said (Los Angeles Times, 12/2).
According to some HIV/AIDS advocacy groups, a lack of federal funding is responsible for "part of the failure" to reduce the number of new HIV infections in the country, the AP/Journal-Consitution reports. "The reality is, to cut the number of infections, we need to do more -- you can't always do more with less. We desperately need more resources," Terje Anderson, executive director of the National Association of People with AIDS, said (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 12/1). Federal funding for HIV/AIDS prevention efforts has declined from 9% of the total HIV/AIDS budget in 1995 to 5% in 2003, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, USA Today reports (USA Today, 12/2). CDC now aims to cut in half the number of new HIV infections in five years and has recommended that routine HIV testing be expanded to pregnant women, injection drug users and anyone who engages in unsafe sex practices (Simao, Reuters/Washington Times, 12/2).