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New HIV-AIDS Cases Dip in Va.
6,000 May Not Know They're Infected, Studies Say

By Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 6, 2007

RICHMOND, Dec. 5 -- Almost 19,000 people in Virginia are known to be living with HIV or AIDS and an additional 6,000 might not know they are infected, according to new state studies.

Newly diagnosed cases of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and AIDS decreased from almost 1,600 in 1997 to just less than 1,200 in 2006 in the state, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The number of people with HIV and AIDS has steadily increased in Virginia because people are living longer with improved drugs and more access to health care.

In general, more cases are reported in the more populated, urban areas of the state, though the smaller number of infected people in rural areas might have more trouble finding resources, said Kathy Hafford, acting director for the Health Department's Division of Disease Prevention. The pair of reports, prepared by the department and the Virginia HIV Community Planning Committee, was released to coincide with World AIDS Day, which was Saturday. Observed for the 20th year, World AIDS Day is designed to increase awareness, fight prejudice and boost education.

"The plan and profile are useful for planners at both the state and local levels," said Elaine Martin, director of community services in the health department's division of disease prevention. "They provide city and county governments, community organizations, health-care planners and educators with current data they can use to create effective prevention and care plans to protect the people in their localities."

The rate of Virginians living with HIV or AIDS was 351 per 100,000 men and 125 per 100,000 women at the end of 2006, according to the studies. Of those infected at that time, 62 percent were black, 31 percent white and 6 percent Hispanic. The reports don't break down the numbers by county.

The statistics indicate that Virginia, where 18,587 have reported having HIV or AIDS in Virginia, is in line with other states. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 25 percent more have not been tested and do not know they are infected. About a million people in the United States are living with HIV and AIDS. The CDC has previously reported that 40,000 new cases are reported each year but said recently that it will soon be revising that number to about 60,000.

The United Nations reports that 33 million people are living with HIV and AIDS worldwide, with about 2.5 million new cases reported this year.

The reports, conducted in Virginia every three years, provide information for health-care providers and others to help prioritize resources for prevention.

"Our community partners contributed real-life perspectives that helped us develop a thorough understanding of the populations at risk," Martin said. "That enhanced the efforts to identify unmet needs, research initiatives and effective prevention measures."

The authors recommend more money for needle exchange programs, collaborating with methamphetamine programs and using Spanish speakers to reach the Latino population.

"We never have enough have enough money to do all the prevention we can,'' Hafford said.

Last week, Eastern Virginia Medical School announced that it had received a $28.5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help develop a topical gel that can prevent sexual transmission of HIV. The Contraceptive Research and Development (CONRAD) Program conducts worldwide research on reproductive health, including the prevention of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

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