About AIDS

AIDS cases rising as complacency reigns

It's been predicted, even amid optimism over the near-miraculous "AIDS drug cocktail"; it's been spotted, localized here and there. However, national statistics now confirm the honeymoon is over: AIDS cases are creeping back up.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data show that, after seven years of decline, the number of U.S. AIDS cases reported during 2001 was 8% higher than the year before: 42,008, compared to 38,864 new cases in 2000. The greatest increases are on the East coast (NYC was up 47%) and in the Southeast. By contrast, new cases were down in California, although up in San Francisco. The numbers are preliminary, but little change is anticipated in the final figures.

Locally, Austin's numbers are also climbing: 2001 is up significantly over the prior year, from 149 to 197. Some of the increase is surely just the result of data-gathering mechanics, but part of it has to be real.

This isn't unexpected. Complacency about AIDS is leading people, especially youth and most particularly young gay/bi men, to be less careful about safer sexual choices; and heterosexual minority substance abusers continue to share needles. Further, the anti-HIV meds are less effective because of predictable, growing drug resistance, caused in part by the difficulty of maintaining the demanding treatment regimens.

HIV and AIDS have not gone away. People aren't dying at the rate they were, but this is still a nasty disease. Making responsible behavior choices is still important.

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