New Study Delineates Toll of AIDS Virus : Health: One in 92 American men ages 27 to 39 may be infected with HIV. Disease may become young people’s rite of passage, researcher says.
One of every 92 American men ages 27 to 39 may be battling the AIDS virus, according to the most precise estimates yet of the epidemic’s toll.
The sobering numbers show minorities are especially hard hit, with one of every 33 young black men estimated to be infected in 1993, according to the report in this week’s journal Science. The 1993 data is the latest available.
If the trend continues, “the threat of AIDS may become a rite of passage” for young people, said study author Philip Rosenberg of the National Cancer Institute. “That’s a very disturbing future.”
The government has already warned that AIDS is threatening more and more young adults. In January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that AIDS in 1993 became the No. 1 killer of people ages 25 to 44.
If AIDS was killing that many, how many others were alive with the human immunodeficiency virus, posing the potential for the disease’s continued spread? And because HIV typically causes no symptoms for 10 years, just how young were these people when they caught it?
Rosenberg’s study is the most precise look at HIV prevalence to date, in an attempt to answer those questions.
People ages 18 to 25 experienced a rapid rise in HIV infections between 1986 and 1992, during the same time when older Americans’ risk of HIV infection leveled off, Rosenberg found.
Those infections meant people ages 27 to 39 were the most likely to be alive with HIV in January, 1993, he reported. He calculated that one of every 139 young white men was living with HIV then, as was one in 33 young black men and one in 60 Latinos.
Women were more than four times less likely to be infected. One of every 1,667 white women ages 27 to 39 had HIV in January, 1993, as did one in 98 black women and one in 222 Latinos, Rosenberg calculated.
The numbers probably have not changed much since 1993, primarily because it takes so long for HIV to kill an individual, said the CDC’s John Ward, an AIDS expert.
The numbers are not a surprise--AIDS’ death toll indicates fairly accurately how widespread HIV infection is, said Cornelius Baker of the National Assn. of People With AIDS.
But the new study puts HIV in such terms as to make the average American understand its real and growing threat, Baker said.
“I don’t think most people really get it, that [infection] is a potential for them,” Baker said. “We have to be clear: Right now . . . if you get HIV in your 20s, you will die by around 40 years old.”
The CDC will unveil next week new measures to try to get that message to young Americans.
The government recently announced that AIDS appeared to be leveling off, with 40,000 new infections every year balanced by about 40,000 annual deaths.
Rosenberg said his study counters that optimism--because the apparent plateau disguises the increased risk to younger Americans. Only young white men have seen a drop in new infections in recent years, while the risk has increased for young minorities and women.
The CDC has counted 501,310 AIDS cases since 1981 and 311,381 deaths. As of 1993, between 630,000 and 897,000 Americans were alive with HIV, Rosenberg said.