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CDC: HIV/AIDS Statistics Up in America

Blacks, Hispanics, Teens, Online Cruisers at Greatest Risk
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WebMD Health News

July 25, 2003 -- Nearly 1 million people are living with HIV and AIDS in the U.S. today. In fact, the number of newly diagnosed cases has increased -- and many infected people don't know they have HIV.

Those most at risk for infection: People of color, young teens, drug users, and gay men who meet sex partners online.

This new snapshot of the HIV and AIDS epidemic is being presented at the 2003 National HIV Prevention Conference, which opened Sunday in Atlanta.

The biannual conference, first held in 1999, is the largest single gathering of HIV/AIDS experts in the U.S. The conference provides a critical opportunity for these experts, researchers, and AIDS community representatives to discuss recent advances and new challenges in efforts to reduce the burden of HIV in this country.

"Although we've made great progress in preventing HIV since the early days of the epidemic, new and significant challenges remain," Ronald O. Valdisseri, deputy director of the CDC's National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention, told a press audience on Friday.

Valdisseri announced the CDC's new HIV tracking system, which should provide public health officials with more accurate numbers of HIV infections across the country. The system distinguishes "new" HIV infections -- those that have occurred within the past six months -- from infections that may have occurred years earlier.

He also mentioned success stories: "Thanks to the availability of treatment regimens to prevent transmission, the number of infants born with HIV has fallen dramatically," he says. "However, newborns still contract HIV from their mothers each year; each of these is preventable tragedy."

Other new data:

  • 42,136 new cases of AIDS were diagnosed in 2002 -- a 2% increase; there were 16,371 deaths, a 6% decline since 2001.
  • New HIV diagnoses for gay and bisexual men increased by 18% since the lowest point in 1999. Diagnoses among other vulnerable groups -- people of color and drug users -- remained stable.
  • Between 850,000-900,000 persons are living with HIV in America, one-quarter of whom are unaware of their infection.
  • Twenty percent of African-American and Latinos are not aware that effective HIV treatments are available -- suggesting more needs be done to raise awareness, since the promise of effective treatment could encourage people to get tested.
  • HIV from injection drug use has increased by 15% in youth and young adults, with the greatest increase in the 13-15-year-olds. This increase follows years of steady declines, and points to the need for preventive education efforts aimed at young injection drug users.

Women continue to be a high-risk group:

  • Seventy-three percent of African-American women do not believe they are at risk for HIV, although more than half had a history of other STDs.
  • One-fifth or more pregnant women are still not being tested for HIV, despite the recommendation that testing be part of prenatal care.
  • Forty percent of American women of childbearing age are not aware of methods to protect newborns from HIV.
  • Foreign-born women are more than twice as likely to refuse HIV testing as women born in the U.S.

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