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New AIDS Diagnoses and HIV Infections Are on the Rise

New AIDS Diagnoses and HIV Infections Are on the Rise


Troubling data announced by federal health experts on July 28 at the 2003 National Prevention Conference in Atlanta show a surprising resurgence in the U.S. AIDS epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, new AIDS diagnoses in the United States rose 2.2% in 2002'the first increase in nearly a decade'with the disease making a particularly strong comeback among gay and bisexual men. New HIV infections among men who have sex with men rose 7.1% from 2001 to 2002 and are up by nearly 18% since 1999. A related CDC study released July 29 showed that the number of new HIV diagnoses among intravenous drug users also rose in 2000, after six years of declines. Health officials are concerned that the rising infection rates are indicative of widespread prevention burnout and are due to advances in antiretroviral therapy that have lulled some younger at-risk individuals into a false sense that AIDS is no longer fatal. Ron Valdiserri, deputy director of the CDC's National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention, said the resurgence of HIV among gay and bisexual men, the first group in the United States to be hit hard by the disease, is particularly troubling'and that it indicates that aggressive prevention campaigns are still needed for this population. But some AIDS activists and even government officials were hesitant to paint too bleak a picture based on the CDC's new data. 'The jump in infections among gay and bisexual men is partly because of what is being done right,' said John Brown, executive director of the Palm Springs, Calif.'based Desert AIDS Project. 'With the advent of OraSure [rapid HIV antibody testing kits], testing for HIV can be done literally anywhere. As a result, gay and bisexual men are being tested where they congregate.' And renewed prevention efforts shouldn't ignore complex health and social issues in favor of simpler 'use condoms' messages, said other health experts. 'Racism, poverty, and homophobia clearly drive the spread of HIV at the community level, especially among men of color who have sex with other men,' said Craig Thompson, executive director of AIDS Project Los Angeles. 'Frankly, these factors are often overlooked in our national and local prevention planning. As we respond to the data and to the CDC's new prevention initiatives, we can no longer ignore these factors as they contribute to ongoing infections.'

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