On 25th Anniversary Of First HIV Case, Awareness Crucial Revised Statistics Mark New Disease Trends

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 31, 2006

While the country recognizes the 25th anniversary of the first cases of AIDS reported in the United States on June 5, state officials who track HIV disease believe Michigan citizens are becoming too complacent about the spread of HIV. More than 5,000 Michigan residents have been diagnosed with HIV since January 1, 2000.

"We cannot afford to become complacent with HIV and AIDS in Michigan," said Janet Olszewski, Director of the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH). "Because of the availability of medicines to treat this illness, many individuals believe AIDS is a thing of the past, but it is still a public health threat that we need to redouble our efforts to eliminate."

Olszewski said disease trends in Michigan have changed appreciably since 2000:

  • Michigan is seeing significant increases among young people aged 13 to 24, however most new diagnoses of HIV still occur among persons aged 30 to 44 years old.
  • Among these young people, prevention efforts need to be focused, relevant and accessible to African American youth in particular, since most of the increase is seen here.
  • African American, white and Hispanic men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to lead the epidemic in Michigan and we have seen significant increases in HIV among these men.
  • HIV trends among injecting drug users are showing promising declines.
  • The proportion of African American women getting diagnosed with HIV and AIDS at the same has declined significantly. This likely means that they are getting tested earlier in the course of their infection than other populations.

Report on the Status of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Michigan, 2005

"These trends underscore the importance of continuing to ensure that there are a range of options for Michigan’s residents to be tested and to learn their HIV status, including highly targeted programs for MSM and African American communities," said Loretta Davis-Satterla, Director of the MDCH Division of Health, Wellness, and Disease Control. "Early diagnosis is critical to helping those who are found to be HIV infected live healthier and longer lives through proper treatment."

Historically, Davis-Satterla said, MDCH has focused its resources for HIV and AIDS prevention into communities that are at higher risk for the disease, and recently received proposals from local community health organizations for $2 million in federal dollars available to target prevention services for high-risk populations. MDCH will finalize decisions on these important awards later this summer, Davis-Satterla said.

"Young people need to access care. We need to decrease the barriers to HIV counseling and testing and medical care," said Dr. Kathryn Wright, Medical Director of the Horizons Project at Children’s Hospital of Michigan. "There are many infected youth and young adults that fear the stigmatization and rejection of peers and adults and – therefore – do not get into care. They need assistance and ongoing support to engage and stay in care. Their future health depends on them getting adequate treatment."

During the last five years, the number of cases diagnosed each year remained stable at about 890 diagnoses per year. However, during this time, statistically significant increases were observed in the proportion of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses among men who have sex with men (from 51% to 57%; 461 to 550 cases) and among persons ages 13-24 years, (from 9% to 19%; 83 to 185 persons).

"I am excited, but not surprised, to see a decrease in the proportion of HIV/AIDS cases among injection drug users. Michigan and the City of Detroit have developed one of the most comprehensive and effective HIV prevention systems in this country, a system that includes effective substance abuse prevention messages and programs, drug treatment to help people get off drugs and even syringe access programs for active injectors," said Harry Simpson, Director of Substance Abuse Services for the Community Health Awareness Group (CHAG). "The decrease in cases we are experiencing today is the result of that system and an excellent example of what can happen when a community comes together to address the dual epidemics of HIV/AIDS and substance abuse."

Of the 185 13-24 year olds living with HIV/AIDS in 2004, most (77%) were among 20-24 year olds. A statistically significant decrease was observed in the proportion of cases among injection drug users (IDU) (from 17% to 12%; 150 to 120 cases).

Persons who were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS between the ages of 13 and 24 years during 2000-2004 are more likely to be African American than persons diagnosed at other ages – 75 percent compared with 58 percent of the population of persons living with HIV/AIDS in Michigan.

The proportion of new diagnoses by race and sex remained stable between 2000 and 2004. However, MDCH notes that HIV/AIDS continues to disproportionately affect the state’s African American communities. African Americans make up 14 percent of the state’s population, but account for 62% of all cases of HIV/AIDS diagnoses in 2004. African American men account for 41% of all new diagnoses while African American women account for 21%.

Information on HIV/AIDS in Michigan can be found on the MDCH website.

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