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County Report Shows Steady Spread of AIDS

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The number of new AIDS cases in Ventura County continued to increase steadily in 1994, health officials said Thursday, even as they released a report that seemed to contradict that trend.

The latest figures also show that women represent a small but growing proportion of the cases across the county.

Doctors reported 68 new AIDS cases in 1994, far fewer than the 135 reported in 1993.

But officials said the figures are skewed because of a change in the federal guidelines expanding the definition of AIDS. Because of that change, a number of cases that would have been reported in 1994 were reported the year before.

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“Overall, we have seen an increase,” said Dr. Elizabeth Trebow, a public health official who tracks AIDS cases. “It’s not huge, but it’s an increase.”

Discounting 1993’s statistical blip, last year’s rate revealed a slight increase over the early 1990s, according to a county year-end report released Thursday.

The 68 cases reported in 1994 compares to 63 cases in 1992, 50 in 1991 and 46 in 1990, according to the report.

Moreover, Trebow said that the number of 1994 cases is expected to increase over the next six months because of late reporting by physicians.

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“This is really a preliminary number,” Trebow said. “We expect it to go up by 10% or more.”

As of Dec. 31, a total of 472 cases of acquired immune deficiency syndrome had been diagnosed in Ventura County since 1989, according to the county report.

The most notable finding was that the number of new cases among males dropped from 125 in 1993 to 59 in 1994, while the number of new female cases remained the same--10. Women represented 14.7% of new cases in 1994, compared to 9.5% in 1992 and 12% in 1991.

“The women affected most are the ones in the childbearing years, and as a result there’s a risk if they become pregnant that their babies will be infected,” said Martina Rippey, a public health nurse who works in the county’s immunology clinic. She knew of four HIV-positive babies born in 1994.

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At the clinic, 33 of the 250 patients or about 13% of those infected with the human immunodeficiency virus or who have AIDS are women, Rippey said.

About half of the women seeking treatment were infected via sex with high-risk partners, either bisexual men or intravenous drug users, she said. The remainder of the women were infected either through their own intravenous drug use, blood transfusions or other means, Rippey said.

Meanwhile, the 1994 report found that the incidence of new AIDS cases was highest among white males at 39 and Latino males at 19. The 25- to 35-year-old age group was the hardest hit.

The incidence among black males declined from six in 1993 to one in 1994.

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Although 1994 statistics are not available yet, the highest rate of new AIDS cases in 1993 were found in the cities of Port Hueneme, with 49, and Ventura, with 43. Simi Valley had the lowest rate of new cases in 1993, with 10.

Also in 1993, homosexual and bisexual men accounted for the majority of the county’s AIDS patients: 71%. A similar breakdown for 1994 is not yet available.

Trebow said the data is important in helping to determine where to direct educational, preventive and treatment programs. She said health officials will present the findings to the County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday along with recommendations on improving services.

Among the proposals are the creation of an AIDS-awareness program for county employees, an early intervention program for people with the HIV and funds to support low-cost housing for AIDS patients.

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Trebow said the county’s Public Health Department and the Ventura County Community Foundation have together received about $100,000 in grants to assess the scope of AIDS in the county.

Depending on the study’s outcome, Trebow said the county could receive hundreds of thousands of dollars more for AIDS prevention and treatment programs.

More on AIDS

* A special report featuring Times stories on the search for a cure, public health issues and the global spread of the disease is available on the TimesLink on-line service in the Nation & World section.

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Details on Times electronic services, B4


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