Report Finds That HIV Cases in Baltimore Increasing Among People Ages 20-29, Calls on City To Do More To Fight Spread of Virus
The number of HIV cases recorded in Baltimore among people ages 20-29 increased by 10% annually between 2000 and 2006, and blacks account for 90% of new cases in the city, according to a report released Thursday by the Baltimore City Commission on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment, the Baltimore Sun reports.
According to the Maryland AIDS Administration, almost 16,000 city residents were living with HIV/AIDS as of September 2006, the last date for which data are available. Although the rate of new cases has been declining by about 2% annually, the decline has not been as fast as other U.S. cities, the administration found. Baltimore has the second-highest rate of new AIDS cases in the nation, according to a federal report. The commission's report called on the city to begin measuring results of its prevention efforts to ensure that people who test HIV-positive receive treatment access. The report also said that Baltimore should increase HIV/AIDS education in the city's public school system. In addition, it recommended a citywide advertising campaign to increase awareness about the disease and programs to provide homeless people living with HIV/AIDS with housing and treatment.
"Baltimore as a whole is not doing well," William Blattner, head of the commission, said, adding, "We need to have a strategic plan so we can move ourselves out of the top 10 in a coordinated way." Blattner said he is disturbed by the increase of HIV cases among people in their 20s, adding that it is a trend that the school system could address through "age-appropriate" classes starting in grade school.
City health commissioner Joshua Sharfstein said his top priority is to develop a "coherent prevention plan." He added the city still lacks an inventory of what public and not-for-profit groups are doing and what they have accomplished. "There's no public accounting," Sharfstein said, adding that one problem is the assortment of public and private agencies making grants. "If there were a single funding agency, it would be easier," Sharfstein said. The Health Department is creating a program, called "HIV stat," that will ask agencies to report their activities on a quarterly basis, the Sun reports. Sharfstein said the health department also is planning new methods to fight the spread of the disease among people who engage in commercial sex work to support their drug habits (Bor, Baltimore Sun, 3/28).