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CDC: 1 million people in U.S. living with HIV

ATLANTA (BP)–More than 1 million people in the United States are now living with the virus that causes AIDS, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number, which is the highest since the 1980s, is said to reflect the success of treatment drugs as well as the failure to prevent new infections.

The CDC reported June 13 that between 1,039,000 and 1,185,000 people in the United States were living with HIV in December 2003, compared to 850,000 to 950,000 the previous year.

While innovative treatment drugs are enabling persons infected with the disease to live longer, the government estimates that 40,000 new infections occur each year and some experts contend the more realistic figure is 60,000, according to the Associated Press.

“The U.S. has had a clear failure in HIV prevention — I think the increase in prevalence is a reflection of that, of the poor job we do in HIV prevention,” said Carlos del Rio, a professor of medicine at Emory University.

But because of advances in treatment, trends in AIDS incidence have become less reflective of underlying trends in HIV transmission, the CDC noted.

In breaking down the statistics, the CDC found that half of all HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed in 2003 were among blacks, and males accounted for 72 percent of all cases. The 25-34 age group represented 27 percent of all HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed in 2003, the government agency said.

When the method of transmission was studied, the CDC found that from 2000 to 2003 the estimated number of HIV/AIDS cases increased each year among homosexual men and among heterosexual adults and adolescents. The estimated number of cases decreased among injection drug users, homosexual men who were also injection drug users and among children. Homosexual men accounted for 45 percent of all HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed in 2003.

Of all HIV infections diagnosed in 2002, 38 percent progressed to AIDS within 12 months after HIV infection was diagnosed, the CDC said.

From 1999 to 2001, decreases in the annual number of AIDS cases began to level, but after 2001, the numbers began to rise each year. In 2003, the estimated rate of AIDS cases in the United States was 14.5 per 100,000 people, the CDC reported.

At the end of 2003, the CDC estimates 405,926 people were living with AIDS in the United States. Of the estimated 313,183 male adults and adolescents living with AIDS, 58 percent were infected via homosexual contact.

News of the latest numbers comes as many Americans continue to practice high-risk sexual behavior that leaves them increasingly vulnerable to HIV infection. Earlier this year The New York Times examined a new trend among homosexual men, most notably in New York City, that mixes crystal methamphetamine with high rates of unprotected sex.

“Crystal meth is all over the place now, and once you start using it, it becomes integrated in your mind with sex, and the idea of sober sex holds no interest,” Peter Staley, a former user who started a campaign against methamphetamine, told The Times.

A survey of homosexual men found that 25 percent had recently used crystal meth, The Times said. Users typically mix methamphetamine with other drugs like Viagra for sexual marathons with other homosexual men, and one expert told The Times it is common for men using meth to have sex with 10 to 20 partners in one night. Too often, the sexual partners are anonymous and condoms are not used.

Many AIDS experts predict it’s only a matter of time before a resurgence of the AIDS epidemic hits the United States as more powerful strains of the virus spread through high rates of unprotected sex.
For a closer look at the CDC study, visit www.cdc.gov/hiv/stats.

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