HIV Infections Soar among Gays; Study Finds 'Safe Sex' Methods Scorned

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Byline: Joyce Howard Price, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

New cases of HIV, which causes AIDS, jumped sharply among homosexual men in the United States from 1999 to 2002, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported yesterday.

The number of new infections climbed 17 percent for homosexual men in this period, compared with 7.3 percent for all men, the study revealed. It was published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"Reports of syphilis outbreaks and increased unprotected sex raise concerns regarding increases in HIV transmission among men who have sex with men," the authors of the report said. HIV is the acronym for human immunodeficiency virus.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Dr. Rob Janssen, director of the CDC's AIDS division, said black men continue to account for more than half (55 percent) of new HIV diagnoses in the country, making them the hardest-hit population.

HIV cases increased 26 percent and 8 percent, respectively, among Hispanic men and non-Hispanic white men during the survey period.

In all racial categories, the greatest number of men being diagnosed with HIV were homosexual or bisexual, Dr. Janssen said. Researchers say their data were based on 102,590 new HIV diagnoses in 29 states in the survey period. Of those, 43,144 were among homosexual and bisexual men. The other infections, including heterosexual men, were mostly transmitted through intravenous drug use. The rates of infection for both the groups remained steady during the period.

Growing numbers of homosexual men appear to be ignoring "safe sex" warnings and putting themselves at risk for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. One reason, Dr. Janssen said, is the erroneous belief that AIDS is "curable." The other is that HIV/AIDS is viewed as a chronic, not terminal, disorder, which can be managed with a variety of drug cocktails.

However, he said, not everyone will respond to HIV/AIDS treatments, and prevention is the best course. Exacerbating the problem, he said, is the failure of many people to know their HIV status. …