Number of New AIDS Cases Reported in Florida Increased 24% in 2004; Number of New HIV Infections Dropped Slightly
The number of new AIDS cases in Florida increased a "surprising" 24% in 2004, which could signal a "resurgence" of HIV/AIDS cases in the state, state health officials said on Wednesday, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. Health officials said antiretroviral drug regimens' failure to slow disease progression and the increasing number of people who do not learn their HIV status until they have progressed to AIDS contributed to the increase in the number of AIDS cases -- the first in more than 10 years, according to the Sun-Sentinel (LaMendola, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 2/17). In addition, more long-term HIV patients might be developing resistance to antiretroviral drugs and progressing to AIDS, the Miami Herald reports. "The largest percentage increase in AIDS for 2004 was in people 50 and older," Thomas Liberti, AIDS director for the Florida Department of Health, said, adding, "These are people who were infected (with HIV) 10 or 15 or 17 years ago, who are running out of drug options" (Tasker, Miami Herald, 2/18). Officials said that they hoped the increase was a "temporary blip" caused by a major HIV testing initiative that might have detected "many" new cases, the Sun-Sentinel reports. Liberti said that the campaign has tested about one million people for HIV infection since 2001, according to the Sun-Sentinel. However, officials also announced that the number of new HIV infections reported in the state in 2004 was 3% lower than 2003 levels, according to the Sun-Sentinel (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 2/17). Liberti said that he plans to examine early 2005 HIV/AIDS data before concluding whether the increase in the number of new AIDS cases in 2004 can be attributed to more than an increase in HIV testing, according to the Herald. "If it was an out-of-control number of AIDS cases, then HIV cases would have the same increase," he said, adding, "The fact that there's a 3% (statewide) decline is an encouraging sign that we're holding fast on the front end" (Miami Herald, 2/18).
Among major metropolitan areas, Broward County, Fla., had the largest increase in its number of newly reported AIDS cases, with a 49% increase in 2004 over 2003, and Miami-Dade County -- which in 2003 had the second highest number of AIDS cases per capita in the country behind New York City -- had a 33% increase in its number of new AIDS cases. Palm Beach County was an "exception" to the increases, the Sun-Sentinel reports. The number of new AIDS cases in the county remained stable last year and the number of new HIV cases decreased 17% in 2004, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Florida has the fourth-highest AIDS case rate among states in the country, the Sun-Sentinel reports (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 2/17).