AIDS is not leveling off, official says

YOUNGSTOWN — The city’s health commissioner says that though there is a need for more funding of HIV/AIDS prevention programs, some young people don’t believe AIDS is for real.

The city board of health received a $300,602 grant from the Ohio Department of Health to provide HIV/AIDS prevention services in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties in 2007.

Neil Altman, city health commissioner, said Monday the problem is that the money stayed the same as the 2006 HIV/AIDS allocation but the need is growing.

The grant is used to operate the health department’s AIDS Division and to contract with various agencies and individuals to provide HIV/AIDS services, Altman said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says AIDS has leveled off, but Altman disagrees.

“The CDC says there are medications that allow AIDS patients to live longer, leading to fewer deaths. However, the CDC does not include in its statistics the people infected with HIV that have not yet developed full-blown AIDS,” thereby skewing the numbers, Altman said after the board’s meeting.

The number of HIV infections are still increasing, but when people read that AIDS has moderated, they become complacent and engage in high-risk behavior, he said.

As a result, there is a new group of people, predominantly in the 15- to mid-40s age range being infected, who won’t believe it is for real until they see their friends and family members die, Altman said.

“The sad part is that we [in the health department] are older, and the younger people won’t listen to us. We need to hire a peer as an AIDS educator,” he said.

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