Figures detail disease still a serious concern

Published 9:36pm Friday, November 30, 2012

This year Dallas County reported eight cases of HIV/AIDS, and while that is one less reported case than last year it is still high for the area.

Dallas County is one of eight counties that make up Area 7 on Alabama’s Public Health Area Map, which breaks the state into 11 different areas.

“With Dallas being the largest county in the Area, we’re going to have more cases,” Janice Robbins, Alabama Department of Public Health Area 7 HIV Program Coordinator said in regard to the eight cases reported this year. “It’s still high, but when you’re comparing them to another [county] in our [area], Lowndes would be higher than Dallas.”

The Alabama Department of Public Health started reporting HIV/AIDS cases in 1985. Since then, Dallas County has reported 239 cases while surrounding counties in Area 7 have cumulatively reported 72 cases (Lowndes), 52 cases (Sumter), 46 cases (Hale), 43 cases (Perry), 39 cases (Marengo and Choctaw) and 30 cases (Wilcox).

Robbins said the reason the number of cases for Dallas County is so high is because the population in Dallas County is larger.

“We have more [people infected] because our population is larger,” she said. “But when you compare it to Lowndes County, their population is less, and 72 cases in Lowndes is real high.”

According to the data collected by the Alabama Department of Public Health, the fastest growing population of the virus across the state is seen in persons 13 to 25 years old. Infections in that age range increased 10 percent in 2011. That same year, persons 13 to 34 years old accounted for more than half of newly diagnosed HIV infections in Alabama.

“When they’re young they think they’re invincible,” Robbins said. “Even though you go to the schools and provide education, some students you don’t know if they’re taking it in. Even if they may know the risk factors and what’s involved it could be peer pressure that leads them to it.”

“Though only representing 13 percent of Alabama’s total population, the Black Belt region reported 23 percent (3,574) of all newly diagnosed cases in 2010,” the 2011 Alabama HIV Integrated Epidemiolic Profile stated.

And while this area sees a high number of HIV/AIDS cases, “HIV touches Americans in every corner of the nation,” Salina Cranor, a representative of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention said. “Because of differences in HIV reporting practices among states, national surveillance data on AIDS cases currently provide the clearest picture of the regional impact of the epidemic.

But like Robbins said about Dallas County, population must be accounted for when comparing the rate of cases in different areas.

“When taking into account differences in the size of population in these regions, the rate of AIDS diagnosis or the number of diagnosis per 100,000 people is actually highest in the Northeast,” Cranor said adding that from 2007 to 2010, rates in the South actually decreased.

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