The number of gay and bisexual men diagnosed with HIV climbed for the third consecutive year in the United States in 2002, fueling fears that the disease might be poised for a major comeback in this high-risk group. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reported the finding on Monday at the 2003 National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta, also revealed that AIDS diagnoses overall had risen 2.2% to 42,136 last year.
Although U.S. health officials have been preaching HIV prevention to all Americans, they have become particularly concerned in recent years by an apparent resurgence of infections among gay and bisexual males. HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men surged 7.1% in 2002, according to data collected by the CDC from 25 states. New diagnoses in this high-risk group have increased 17.7% since 1999. Health officials say at least part of the increase may be attributed to higher numbers of gay and bisexual men seeking HIV antibody tests, but most agree that unprotected sex is also on the rise among men who have sex with men.
An estimated 850,000 to 950,000 Americans have HIV. AIDS killed 16,371 people across the nation last year, about 6% fewer than in 2001, according to the CDC.