HEALTH A million Americans now living with HIV
Rather than cutting the number of AIDS victims in half, the number has risen.
ATLANTA (AP) -- The United States has reached an AIDS milestone, but not the one the government intended.
This was to be the year that federal health officials slashed the country's annual rate of 40,000 new HIV infections in half. Instead, the government said Monday the infection rate has remained the same and that for the first time since the height of the epidemic in the 1980s there are 1 million Americans living with HIV.
In part, it's a testament to the powerful medicines keeping so many people alive. After nearly a quarter-century of battling AIDS, much more is known about the disease than ever before -- and how to treat it.
However, U.S. health officials face problems similar to the early days of the epidemic, including a new generation of Americans who engage in risky, unprotected sex and the inability of a government to curb the spread of the virus.
"In the earlier days of the AIDS epidemic, we didn't know how to get AIDS under control. I think now we do, but we're watching a textbook case of not implementing a good plan," said Julie Davids, spokeswoman for the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project.
Advocacy groups like Davids' say there's not enough federal money behind public awareness campaigns and other prevention programs. They accuse the government of politically motivated efforts that emphasize abstinence over condom use.
Health officials say HIV and sexually transmitted diseases have recently spread through outbreaks in major cities as many gay and bisexual men have let down their guard after enduring years of safe-sex messages. The new estimates indicate that, as in recent years, blacks still account for a disproportionately high share of the cases -- about 47 percent.
"We have not halved the rates of new infections. But we do think we are making progress," said Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, deputy director of the CDC's National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention as the National HIV Prevention Conference got under way.