Number of HIV Cases Increases ‘Sharply’ Among Teens, Older People in Massachusetts
The number of newly reported HIV cases among Massachusetts adolescents and young adults and people over age 50 is rising "sharply," according to state Department of Public Health figures released yesterday, causing alarm among state health officials, the Boston Herald reports. The number of new HIV cases among people ages 13 to 24 increased by more than 40% over a four-year period, increasing from 6.1% of all new HIV cases in the state in 1999 to 8.7% of new cases in 2002. The number of new cases among people over age 50 accounted for 12% of new cases in 2002, compared with 9.2% in 1999, an increase of 31% (Lasalandra, Boston Herald, 6/25). State officials also reported that in 2001 -- for the first time since the start of the epidemic -- no infants in the state were born with HIV (Smith, Boston Globe, 6/25).
Targeting Prevention Efforts
While the epidemic remains most prevalent among people ages 30 to 44, state health officials have expressed concern that the new statistics reflect changes in public attitudes toward sexual health and injection drug use, according to the Associated Press. Many experts attribute the rise in new HIV cases to a lack of AIDS awareness, reckless behavior among younger age groups and a "general sense of weariness" among older patients, according to the Associated Press (Associated Press, 6/24). "People have lost their sense of urgency about the intensity of this disease," Christine Ferguson, the state's public health commissioner, said, adding, "The sense that being diagnosed with this disease is no longer a death sentence has really changed behaviors" (Boston Globe, 6/25). While the state plans to better target both younger and older age groups in future prevention efforts, budget cuts will make such efforts difficult, according to Jean McGuire, director of the health department's AIDS bureau (Boston Herald, 6/25). State AIDS prevention and counseling funding has dropped 31% over the past 18 months, and if Gov. Mitt Romney (R) signs off on the budget approved last week by the Legislature, AIDS prevention funding will drop an additional $3.7 million, a total decrease of 35% (Associated Press, 6/24).