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LOS ANGELES -- AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest AIDS organization in the U.S. which operates free AIDS treatment clinics in the U.S., Africa, Central America and Asia, and is the operator of the largest free alternative HIV testing program in California, expressed concerns about new national HIV surveillance data which show an 8 percent increase in HIV cases among men who have sex with men (MSM) in 2004 while showing a 5 percent average annual decrease in HIV incidence among African Americans over the past three years. However, the report, which was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), noted that despite the slight overall drop among African Americans over the past few years, blacks were eight times as likely as whites to be newly diagnosed with HIV in 2004.
"These latest CDC statistics underscore the critical need for far more aggressive, unified and innovative HIV prevention, testing and outreach efforts in order to break the chain of infections here in the U.S.," said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "An 8 percent increase in HIV rates among gay men is clearly alarming. And despite rates among African American trending downward and average of 5 percent over the past three years, the fact remains that while African Americans account for 13 percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for 51 percent of new HIV infections between 2001 and 2004. These numbers should give all those who work in prevention a wake-up call to reevaluate HIV and STD prevention and testing efforts and outreach. Our own experience here in Los Angeles over the past few years with a successful anti-syphilis campaign shows that a focused, innovative public/private partnership in disease prevention can be effective in educating the public, affecting behavior and bringing down disease rates."
"Just two weeks ago, we were alarmed to learn from a different CDC report that rates of syphilis, a curable STD, had skyrocketed among the MSM population nationwide," said Karen Mall, director of AHF's prevention and testing programs. "And although that report showed that Los Angeles was no longer among the top 10 cities in incidence of syphilis-in part, thanks to the effectiveness of the 'Stop the Sores' prevention campaign-both those STD numbers and these new HIV rates should give prevention advocates and professionals pause, as syphilis infection is often a significant co-factor in the transmission of HIV. We need to redouble our efforts to work together on a local and national scale in order to craft more creative and effective prevention and testing campaigns to fight STD and HIV transmission nationwide."
In addition to the 8 percent increase among MSM, and the slight decrease among African Americans, the CDC report also noted that Latinos, who represent 13 percent of the U.S. population, accounted for 18 percent of new HIV diagnoses between 2001 and 2004, and that they had an HIV incidence rate more than three times that of whites in 2004.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) currently provides more than 15,000 free HIV tests each year through its innovative testing program via testing sites at three AHF Out of the Closet thrift store locations throughout Southern California. In addition, AHF offers testing in the L.A. County Jail System, in bathhouses and commercial sex venues in greater Los Angeles, and in a mobile testing van.
Source: AIDS Healthcare Foundation