- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 12, 2003

From combined dispatches
Reports of new infections with the HIV virus, along with cases of AIDS, have risen in the United States for the first time in a decade, U.S. health officials said yesterday.
"AIDS complacency" means people are not getting tested for the virus and are passing it to others through unprotected sex and other practices, said Ron Valdiserri, a deputy director of the National Center for HIV, Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Tuberculosis Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the 25 states that reported new diagnoses of HIV infection, there was an 8 percent increase in the number of cases between 1999 and 2001, Mr. Valdiserri told the 10th Annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, being held in Boston.
"We see a 14 percent increase in HIV diagnoses over this two-year period in men who have sex with men and a 10 percent increase in heterosexual transmissions," Mr. Valdiserri said in an interview. About half the new cases of HIV are in women who are infected by men, the CDC says.
The 25 states represented about 25 percent of HIV cases in the country, Mr. Valdiserri said, but did not include New York and California the two states with the most cases.
"We are very concerned that it could represent a reversal in the trends that we believe have been relatively stable … at about 40,000 new cases every year," Mr. Valdiserri added.
"We have seen a slight increase in reported AIDS cases for the first time since 1993. It is just a 1 percent increase, but it's the first time since 1993."
Infection with the human immunodeficiency virus used to progress quickly to AIDS the breakdown of the body's immune system that leaves a patient vulnerable to infections such as pneumonia and some cancers.
But in the United States and other rich countries, most patients have access to drugs that can keep them healthy and symptom-free for years.
While welcoming the drugs, health officials have worried that people often forget how dangerous HIV is. "We are still talking about a deadly disease for which there is no cure," Mr. Valdiserri said.
"We are still dealing with this perception that HIV/AIDS is not a problem in America it is just a problem overseas," he said. "Some people call it AIDS complacency. I think it is an issue among all people, not just people of high risk. We are still very concerned about the estimated 280,000 people in America who are infected with HIV and don't know it."
An estimated 850,000 to 950,000 people in the United States are infected with HIV and 36 million worldwide.
Meanwhile, chat rooms on homosexual Web sites are becoming a common place for arranging risky sexual encounters, a survey found.
Research released yesterday suggests that for some, the Internet serves the same hazardous purpose as bathhouses did in the early 1980s, when the AIDS virus first spread rampantly among homosexual men.

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