Data from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health shows that gay men, who once accounted for the vast majority of new HIV infections in the city, are now the third-highest risk group for infection, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Heterosexual sex accounted for about 40% of new HIV cases reported in 2002 and 2003, intravenous drug use accounted for 30% of the new infections, and gay sex accounted for about 23%. The trend appears to be happening across the entire state: Pennsylvania health officials say heterosexual sex accounts for more than 34% of all new HIV infections statewide.
AIDS experts say the declining number of new HIV infections among gay men in Philadelphia is due to comprehensive HIV education campaigns that stress HIV risk factors and promote condom use. Heterosexuals, on the other hand, often don't realize they're at risk for infection, says David Metzger, director of HIV prevention at the University of Pennsylvania Center for AIDS Research. "People are having lots of sex and not using condoms," he told the Inquirer. "They think they're heterosexuals just having fun and they're not in a risk group." There are about 15,400 HIV-positive people living in Pennsylvania, about half of whom reside in the Philadelphia area.