AIDS numbers up for state's women


Published: Wednesday, December 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 1, 2004 at 1:32 a.m.
The statistics for AIDS in some parts of the world are so staggering as to be almost incomprehensible.
Millions of people have died of the disease that first surfaced 23 years ago, and millions more new cases have been reported.
Today's global celebration of World AIDS Day focuses on women and girls who form almost half of the estimated 37.5 million people living with the human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS).
"By the end of 2003, some 19.2 million women were living with HIV/AIDS across the globe, representing half of the 40 million people worldwide living with the disease," Marylin Merida said Tuesday. Merida is board president of the AIDS Institute in Washington, D.C.
Florida has its own share of alarming statistics, figures which reflect the global trend toward increasing infection among women, particularly minority women.
The state ranks third in the nation for the total number of cases of AIDS, and Floridians between 15 and 24 represent the fastest growing group of persons newly infected with HIV.
"Though HIV/AIDS is an epidemic which, in some way, affects us all, the increase of infection in women is particularly alarming," Dr. John Agwunobi, Florida's secretary of health, said Tuesday. "We must remain dedicated to promoting awareness of the causes and consequences of this sweeping disease, as well as available treatments."
In Florida last year, females accounted for 30 percent of those infected with AIDS, with over 11,000 reported cases of HIV.
In Alachua County, 38 percent of those who tested positive for HIV were female. Department of Health figures list 31 new HIV cases reported in 2003, and 45 in 2004. Cases of AIDS reported for Alachua County numbered 46 in 2003, and 50 this year.
Bobby Davis, director of the HIV/AIDS program at the Alachua County Health Department, notes that testing is free.
"Abstinence is the safest policy," Davis added. "If you're not going to be abstinent, then have one sexual partner who is going to be faithful to you, and be sure both of you test negative (for the virus)."
Diane Chun can be reached at (352) 374-5041 or chund@gvillesun.com.

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