The number of new HIV cases in North Carolina the first quarter of 2003 were up about 43% over 2002 levels, with 567 new cases identified this year compared with 394 during the same period in 2002, The [Raleigh] News and Observer reports. In Wake County, the number of new infections during the first quarter of the year doubled over 2002 levels. Infections also climbed in Orange County but declined slightly in Durham County. Health officials say there are several reasons for the rising numbers of HIV cases, most significantly that HIV prevention programs in the region are not reaching at-risk populations, are not properly funded, or both. Risky sexual behavior and injection-drug use also appear to be rising in the state, the officials said.
AIDS activists in the state are worried about the rising infection rates because access to antiretroviral drugs for low-income people in North Carolina is difficult. The state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program has the toughest eligibility requirements in the nation; those making slightly more than $11,000 per year cannot qualify for discounted anti-HIV medications.