Annual HIV diagnosis rate drops

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- The annual diagnosis rate of HIV, the virus that causes aids, has dropped by one third in the United States.

This is a good sign in the fight against the disease, but more progress is needed.

A long-term study of all 50 states finds the diagnosis rate of HIV is down; however, when you break the numbers down further, that rate has doubled among young gay and bisexual males. Some experts say the need for education is crucial among the younger population, who is not old enough to remember the true plight caused by the virus.

“The good news is the infection rate has decreased by one third, looking at the rate per one hundred thousand people of our population,” says Michael Cuffage, CEO of Community AIDs Network (CAN) in Sarasota.

“It shows that our efforts are paying off with what we're doing for prevention around the country and preventions for positives and people that aren’t positive to keep them from getting infected.”

Program Director John Acevedo, in charge of education and prevention, says it is great the infection rate is down—but people are still infected every day.

“Communities tend to get complacent at the fact that they think that the numbers are coming down.”

Some of the challenges of the Suncoast, he says, are reaching certain demographics. “We cannot reach youth, particularly in schools, because of some of the rules and regulations that the school board might have had on getting in to provide this type of information.”

This is left up to parents, he says, who may not be well-educated themselves. Without proper education on the issue, Acevedo says, “They're then put at risk, and then they contract the virus and we're seeing—if you look at the numbers—about twenty five percent of the new cases are within the age of thirteen to twenty nine.”

But how do we compare with national rates? “Here in Florida, we're still actually the second leading increase in rates, or incidence rates of new cases.”

Here's how we rank in actual cases, says Dr. Vilma Vega of Infectious Disease Associates. “Across the United States we're number three; so our rates, even though nationwide there may be this evidence of reduction, in Florida we're still continuing to have some of the highest rates.

CAN’s Director of Development Scott George says you may be surprised at who is unusually at risk here on the Suncoast. “The senior population, the Longboat lothario, who has five girlfriends in his condo, and then one night goes out, finds a prostitute, comes back sleeps with his five girlfriends… and the sadness ensues.”

Now there is a push for at-risk people, including uninfected partners in a relationship, to take preventative medication—but there is still currently no cure for HIV/AIDS.