- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 2, 2004

ATLANTA — A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says new HIV and AIDS diagnoses rose 11 percent among homosexual and bisexual men from 2000 to 2003, increasing concerns that the disease is resurgent nationwide.

The CDC report, released yesterday in connection with World AIDS Day, says rates were stable among most other population sectors, and the overall infection rate rose to 19.7 cases per 100,000 persons in 2003 from 19.5 per 100,000 persons in 2000. Results were tallied from information gathered by 32 states.

AIDS, which destroys the immune system and leaves victims vulnerable to an array of opportunistic infections and cancers, has killed about a half-million Americans and 22 million persons worldwide since 1981.

The CDC reported that homosexuals account for 48 percent of adult AIDS cases, 27 percent involve intravenous-drug users and 7 percent involve people who fit both categories. In 15 percent of AIDS cases, the risk factor was heterosexual intercourse. In the other cases, the cause was such factors as receiving tainted blood or tissues, or it remains unidentified.

Homosexual and bisexual men are thought to account for a majority of the estimated 850,000 to 950,000 Americans living with HIV, the virus that causes the disease.

Public-health experts have been warning of a possible resurgence of the epidemic, which eased in the early 1990s after the development of antiretroviral drugs targeting the disease.

Since the late 1990s, when U.S. deaths from AIDS stabilized at 16,000 per year and new HIV infections stabilized at 40,000 per year, the disease has shown signs of a comeback, particularly among homosexual and bisexual men.

From 2000 to 2003, 125,800 persons were diagnosed with HIV or AIDS in 32 states, according to the report. Forty-four percent of the cases occurred among homosexual and bisexual men.

New York, California and other states that had not used confidential, name-based reporting of HIV and AIDS cases for at least four years were excluded from the study.

“Men who have sex with men continue to constitute a substantial proportion of HIV/AIDS cases,” the report states.

It also said blacks, who represent about 13 percent of the U.S. population, made up 51.3 percent of all HIV and AIDS cases diagnosed in that period.

A number of health departments across the nation also have reported a worrying surge in syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases among homosexual and bisexual men. Sexually transmitted diseases have been linked to the likelihood of contracting HIV.

To combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic in America, the government decided last year to emphasize programs that focus on testing and counseling people who are already infected.

Some AIDS activists, however, fear that the new approach will lead to reduced funding for many programs that emphasize condom use and other safe-sex practices for uninfected people.

The CDC, which hopes to cut the number of new annual HIV infections in half within five years, also has recommended that routine HIV testing be expanded to include pregnant women, intravenous-drug users and anyone who engages in unsafe sex.

In Britain yesterday, leaders condemned the European Union for failing to fund AIDS research.

According to the Weekly Standard, International Development Minister Gareth Thomas said the European Union spent only $26 million on research last year, compared with the $433 million spent by the United States.

“During our EU presidency, we will continue to focus on working to raise money for more funding for AIDS vaccines,” Mr. Thomas said yesterday during a speech commemorating World AIDS Day.

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