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Activists Pounce on Prevention Issue

Activists Pounce on Prevention Issue


Responding to a November report on new HIV infections nationwide, activists have begun calling for the Bush administration to significantly boost spending on prevention initiatives. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's report, based on data collected from 2001 to 2004 in 33 states with names-based HIV reporting systems, reveals both encouraging and disappointing trends. While overall diagnosis rates remained stable nationally, the rate of African-Americans testing positive declined 5% each year. There was also a 9% average annual decline in estimated diagnoses among injection-drug users, a figure the CDC attributes largely to the fact that for the first time its analysis included data from New York State, which operates several needle-exchange programs. Unfortunately, HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men increased 8% between 2003 and 2004, after remaining stable between 2001 and 2003. CDC officials are not sure if the increase is a result of greater rates of new infections or increased testing. But Richard Burns, executive director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in New York City, blames the increase at least partly on the Bush administration's flat funding of HIV prevention programs. 'We have to redouble our prevention efforts,' he insists. 'And we have to continue with different kinds of prevention strategies.' Phill Wilson, executive director of the Los Angeles'based Black AIDS Institute, hailed the data pertaining to African-Americans but says much more work needs to be done. 'Now it's time for George Bush to do what he said he was going to do'and that was to focus on AIDS as it impacts African-Americans,' he says. 'The way he can do that is to show us the money. Government priorities are determined by where the government spends its money. Everything else is bullshit.'

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