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Data shows increase in HIV infections in U.S.
Monday, December 1, 2003

The number of newly diagnosed HIV infections in the United States continues to rise, although cases among Native Americans remain stable, according to new data from the federal government.

There were 609 HIV cases among American Indians and Alaska Natives from 1999 to 2002, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported last week. The amount represents less than 1 percent of all HIV diagnoses in the 29 states covered by the study.

The overwhelming majority of new cases among Native Americans, about 70 percent, were among Native men. Men who have sex with men are at high risk for infection from HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Overall, federal officials said there hasn't been a significant increase in new HIV infections in Indian Country. From 1994 to 2000, there were 654 new HIV cases among Native Americans, according to a CDC study published in July 2002.

But among other groups, the numbers have skyrocketed, officials reported. For example, there were 26 percent more diagnoses among Hispanics during the four-year period. Among whites, there was an 8 percent increase in new diagnoses. Nationwide, there was a 5.1 percent increase from 1999 to 2002.

"These new findings strongly support three key realities of today's epidemic: the HIV epidemic in this country is not over; more often than not the face of HIV in this country is black or Latino; and gay and bisexual men in several communities are facing a possible resurgence of HIV infection," said Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the CDC.

The data was reported in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a CDC publication. The authors of the study said the rising numbers "emphasize the need for new prevention strategies to reverse potential increases in HIV transmission" among men who have sex with men, Hispanics and whites.

Not all states participate in the confidential system the CDC study relied on. California, which has the highest number of Native Americans, was not included. However, data from several states that have a significant Native American population was reported.

In some states, Native Americans are disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS. In South Dakota, Natives are 8.3 percent of the population but make up 13 percent of HIV/AIDS cases. In New Mexico, Natives make up 6 percent of the cases in a state where they are about 10 percent of the population. Officials in Wyoming reported a rise in HIV infections among Native Americans during the 1990s.

Some tribes are reporting rising rates as well. For the first time, health officials on the Navajo Nation say HIV and AIDS cases are originating on the reservation. The Navajo Nation is the largest tribe in the country, with 151 HIV infections on the reservation reported since 1987.

According to the Indian Health Service (IHS), the first four AIDS cases were reported in 1984. Since then, anywhere from 120-150 cases are diagnosed per year. Based on IHS and CDC data, there are now more than 2,300 American Indians and Alaska Natives with HIV/AIDS today.

Get the Study:
Increases in HIV Diagnoses --- 29 States, 1999--2002 (November 28, 2003)

Relevant Links:
National Native American AIDS Prevention Center -
AIDS FAQ, Centers for Disease Control -
AIDS Programs, Indian Health Service -
Minority risk to AIDS, Centers for Disease Control -

Related Stories:
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New cases prompt Navajo Nation AIDS program (03/27)
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Native HIV rates in Wyo. rise (6/5)
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AIDS battle reaches Natives (12/1)
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