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News In Numbers: AIDS Remains A Stubborn Foe In San Diego County

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While the San Diego County HIV numbers were dropping from 492 cases in 2011 to 467 in 2013, the latest numbers indicate a slight resurgence, with 13 more cases in 2014 than in 2013.

It may seem that HIV disease and AIDS are a thing of the past, because more effective drugs now keep infected people healthy and alive. It also might seem that targeted educational programs prevent transmission now that we're nearly four decades into the epidemic.

But statistics recently released for 2014 say that's not quite the case. In San Diego County, 480 people were diagnosed with HIV disease that year, or about one every 18 hours. And 108 San Diego County residents died of AIDS complications, nearly one every three days on average.

Also, while the San Diego County HIV numbers were dropping from 492 cases in 2011 to 467 in 2013, the latest numbers indicate a slight resurgence, with 13 more cases in 2014 than in 2013.

“I think people think AIDS is over, and nothing to worry about. Well, this shows the epidemic is not over, and that the numbers are even increasing,” said Terry Cunningham, former chief of the county’s Office of AIDS Coordination, who helped form several organizations to help people struggling with symptoms, even before the disease had a name in the early 1980s.

Photo credit: Megan Wood / inewsource

Terry Cunningham, former chief of San Diego County’s Office of AIDS Coordination, at his San Diego home, May 24, 2016.

He added that while new drugs have kept many infected people alive and functioning, “a significant portion can’t tolerate them.” They also are very expensive, anywhere from $1,200 to $1,500 a month, much of it paid by taxpayers, he said.

Statewide, 5,002 people were diagnosed with HIV disease in 2014, and 1,533 people died of HIV-related complications.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 12,672 people in the San Diego region living with HIV disease in 2014.

Combined numbers for San Diego and Imperial counties in 2014 show that 72 percent of the people newly diagnosed with HIV were men who had sex with men. About 4.5 percent of those men also used injection drugs. People who had injection drug use as their only risk factor were 4 percent of the total. High risk heterosexuals made up 17.5 percent, an increase from 12.6 percent four years earlier.

One-third (33.5 percent) of the new cases were people between the ages of 20 and 29, 26.5 percent were between 30 and 39, and 22 percent were between 40 and 49. But 13 percent of the new cases in 2014 were people between 50 and 59 and 3.6 percent were 60 and older.

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