HIV Infection Declines Among S.F. Heterosexuals, Rises Among Gay Men
The rate of HIV infection among heterosexuals in San Francisco is falling, but the HIV infection rate among the city's gay male population is on the rise, according to a report released Monday, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The report was conducted by researchers from the University of California, the San Francisco Health Department and the Department of Health Services. A decline in HIV infection also was seen among heterosexual intravenous drug users, a drop likely due to needle-exchange efforts adopted by the city, the report states. The improved safety of blood transfusions and the availability of antiretroviral treatments to prevent vertical transmission of the virus also have helped curb HIV infection rates. The study predicts eight new HIV infections this year among heterosexuals, compared to 45 in 1997, and 93 new infections among heterosexual intravenous drug users, compared to 117 in 1997.
However, researchers warned that the number of HIV infections among gay men will likely be more than twice as high this year as it was four years ago, with the total jumping from 283 in 1997 to 748 by the end of this year. However, AIDS activist group ACT-UP has "questioned" the study's methods, arguing that scientists should have used "harder evidence" to draw their conclusions. The study findings were based on other studies, surveys and clinical data, but ACT-UP said that the researchers also should have examined data from "actual HIV testing." ACT-UP "contend[s]" that the rate of HIV infection among gay men has actually declined and that researchers simply "pumped up statistics to garner more research funds." Mike Shriver, adviser on AIDS policy for San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown (D), said that researchers are examining why HIV "hasn't crossed into the general population in San Francisco" and why it seems to be isolated among the city's gay male population. One theory, he said, is that strains of the virus prevalent on the West Coast "may not spread as easily between men and women" as other strains (Koury, San Jose Mercury News, 3/13).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.