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CDC Reports AIDS Rates Underestimated in U.S.

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer According to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HIV is spreading about 40 percent faster in the U.S. than federal health officials previously estimated. About 56,300 Americans contract HIV/AIDS annually. Since 2001, the CDC  had said there were about 40,000 infections a year. The latest data, gained using new methods, suggests the rate was higher all along. According to Kevin Fenton, CDC director of AIDS prevention, scientists were able to improve its estimate by using new testing techniques that determine the concentration of immune proteins called antibodies that are directed against HIV in the blood. The test helps scientists determine how recently a person with a positive blood test been infected, Fenton said. "This allows you to determine the number of infections that have been recently acquired,'' Fenton told Bloomberg News. "This is the first time this has been done in any country." The CDC combined the blood test with statistical "back- calculation'' methods that estimate the rate of the virus's spread since it was first detected in the U.S. in the early 1980s. The new method for developing the figures had to be carefully checked and reviewed by experts before being released, according to Fenton. The CDC is already taking steps to combat the rising numbers. “We're expanding our testing efforts and increasing access to treatment and care for those that are HIV positive,” Fenton said. “We're working with our partners to understand how best to use prevention resources.'' New infections are believed to have peaked in the mid-1980s at about 130,000 annually, the CDC study found. The yearly rate fell to a low of about 50,000 in the early 1990s, and has climbed since then, with estimates ranging from 55,000 to 58,500 annual infections since 1997, according to the research. Particularly hard hit is the gay community with new cases rising most rapidly among gay men, according to the report.    "There is this HIV fatalism out there among some men where they think `I'm out there, I'm sexually active, I'm going to get infected, what can I do about it?'” said Phil Curtis, director of government affairs with an advocacy group known as the AIDS Project in Los Angeles, to Bloomberg News.   Globally, about 33 million people are infected with HIV, with about 22 million in Africa, according to UNAIDS, the United Nations agency that coordinates care and research. Even though the U.S. and many other Western nations are pouring money into AIDS prevention and treatment programs here and abroad, the mostly condom-based strategies are drawing criticism from more and more experts who say the reason HIV/AIDS rates are not declining is because these programs do nothing to curb the promiscuous behavior that is fueling the spread of the disease. A good example is the country of Uganda where Janet Museveni, the wife of Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, recently lamented the fact that HIV/AIDS rates are on the rise in her country because Ugandans are abandoning behavior-based solutions to HIV-AIDS in favor of methods imported from the West that only serve to perpetuate the disease. "It is not too late to reverse the trend," Museveni said. "We can adopt our own indigenous solutions, which are less expensive and are 100 percent sure of preventing the spread of this deadly disease. I find it very baffling how we could throw away what worked, and embrace ideas from elsewhere. Then we watched as rates of infection soared again to claim lives." The successful solution Museveni is referring to is known as the “ABC” program - Abstain from sex until marriage, Be faithful to your partner, or use Condoms if abstinence and fidelity are not practiced. Since the program was introduced to the population more than a decade ago, HIV-AIDS rates fell from 21 percent to 6 percent. However, according to anti-AIDS crusader Sam Ruteikara, Western methods of combating AIDS, which strive to protect casual sex at all costs, are being imported into Uganda and are resulting in a rise in risky sexual behavior and the overall HIV-AIDS rate. In an article appearing in The Washington Post, Ruteikara said the West's encouragement of dangerous behaviors has led to an increase in the need for expensive anti-retroviral drugs. Foreign aid money could be better spent on successful AIDS-prevention strategies, he wrote. "For every African who gains access to HIV treatment, six become newly infected. To treat one AIDS patient with life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs costs more than $1,000 a year. Our successful ABC campaign cost just 29 cents per person each year." Uganda’s emphasis on abstinence, while sparing its population the ravages of this deadly disease, has drawn harsh criticism from pro-homosexual AIDS activists, some of whom have gone so far as to demand that foreign aid be cut off from Uganda because of its “homophobia.” On Friday July 18, Peter Tatchell, the well-known founder of the pro-homosexual organization Outrage!, called for an end to US aid for, "viciously homophobic countries like Jamaica, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Uganda, Iraq and Nigeria." "Tyrannies should not be rewarded: No US aid for anti-gay regimes," he said. In spite of the intense criticism from gay activists, Uganda’s president is unwavering. According to a report appearing in New Vision, he recently expressed his disagreement with homosexual behavior. At a betrothal ceremony, he is quoted as saying that “marriage is meant for the continuation of the human race.”   © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.  




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