09/14/2005

HIV Clinics See More Patients

First half of 2005 approaches 2004 total

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University’s Positive Health Clinic, which treats HIV and AIDS patients from across northern West Virginia and parts of several adjacent states, has seen a sharp increase in the number of new cases.

WVU operates HIV/AIDS clinics in Morgantown and Wheeling, and oversees patient care at the Shenandoah Valley Medical Systems in Martinsburg. There were 41 new cases at the clinics in 2004. In the first six months of 2005, 30 new cases were seen.

“We are not sure if it is because of an increase in HIV, or because people are more aware of our clinics,” said Arif Sarwari, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and the director of the WVU Positive Health Clinic. “But the increase clearly demonstrates that HIV is present in West Virginia, and that people who are sexually active need to take action to protect their health.”

“The treatment options for HIV-positive people are much improved from a few years ago,” Dr. Sarwari said. “But this is still a dangerous disease. While prescription drugs may help people with AIDS live longer, the treatment regimens are intensive, expensive and often have debilitating side effects.  We should focus efforts on prevention.”

In the US, young adults (under age 25) are quickly becoming the most at-risk group, now accounting for an estimated 50 percent of all new HIV infections. Approximately two young Americans become infected with HIV every hour of every day, and about 25 percent of the people now living with HIV in this country became infected when they were teenagers.

“The young people who are at high risk today have no memory of the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and early 1990s,” said Anndrea Rogers, program director of the WVU Positive Health Clinic. “We encourage college and high school counselors, teachers and health providers to continue to educate students on the risks of unprotected sexual activity.”

Researchers estimate that a quarter or more of all HIV-infected persons are unaware of their infections. According to Dr. Sarwari, the disease is most easily transmitted in its early stages – so HIV testing is important to reduce its spread.

WVU’s Student Health Service continues to provide HIV education, and is expanding its HIV program by offering increased counseling and HIV testing this fall.

In cooperation with the Pennsylvania/MidAtlantic AIDS Education Training Center, the University also provides education and training for healthcare professionals throughout the state of West Virginia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a 24-hour toll-free hotline, 800-342-2437, to answer questions about HIV testing and refer you to testing sites in your area. Further HIV/AIDS information is also on their website at http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/

- WVU -


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For more information:
Bill Case, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087
casew@rcbhsc.wvu.edu
bc:09-14-05

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