The Austin Chronicle

About AIDS

October 23, 1998, Columns

The Centers for Disease Control recently announced that AIDS deaths per year had fallen by 47%, thanks to advances in HIV disease management through new drugs to fight the virus and to control the often-fatal infections and cancers which accompany an HIV-damaged immune system.

Then last week, the Guttmacher Institute released CDC figures indicating that teen pregnancies were at a 20-year low in 1995. (About 10% of girls aged 15-19 are getting pregnant, much too high for this writer's comfort, but at least that's an improvement.) Guttmacher attributes the change to heightened AIDS awareness and more intensive sex education and contraceptive use.

Both data sets are cause for jubilation, but we mustn't lose sight of a third statistic: The number of new infections in the U.S. is still pegged at 40,000-50,000 per year. All the wonderful new "drug cocktails" haven't yet stopped a single exposure. Indeed, the lessened sense of urgency about HIV death may be contributing to more relaxed -- and dangerous -- decision-making.

The new treatments show us that, as slow as it may sometimes seem, scientific progress offers hope for survival with HIV. The reduced pregnancy rate demonstrates that behavior can be shifted over time. These data then must not lull us into complacency but spur us on to renewed commitment: Change can come if we will continue to work for it.

-- Sandy Bartlett, Community Information/Education Coordinator

AIDS Services of Austin

ASA Info Line: 458-AIDS

Copyright © 2023 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.