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Longer survival
rates lead to record number of HIV-positive Californians

Longer survival
rates lead to record number of HIV-positive Californians

Control of HIV disease through antiretroviral therapy is leading to fewer AIDS deaths.

HIV-positive Californians are dying of AIDS-related complications at much lower rates since the arrival of combination therapy in the mid 1990s, and as a result there are now a record number of HIV-positive people in the state, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The number of HIV-positive residents of the state has increased 40% during the past seven years, with much of the increase linked to effective treatment, according to a study by the University of California's Universitywide AIDS Research Program. There are currently about 151,000 HIV-positive people in the state--more than 13% of the total estimated U.S. HIV cases--up from 108,000 in 1998, according to the report.

But AIDS experts also worry that there also is an upswing in risky sexual behavior that may be leading to more HIV infections in the state. "We look at 39 different [infection rise] indicators, and most of them--two thirds--are going in the wrong direction," Universitywide AIDS Research Program director George Lemp told the Chronicle. "We're very concerned about the significant increases in higher risk sexual behaviors and also some of the increases that we're seeing in drug-using behaviors that can lead to HIV infection. I think we really have a challenge to try to turn around these indicators."

Among the troubling signs mentioned by Lemp are reports from the state's HIV Counseling and Testing Program showing that the percentage of Californians seeking HIV antibody tests who have had more than five sex partners in the previous two years has increased from 10% in 1995 to 24% in 2003. The percentage of gay men diagnosed with HIV infection in Los Angeles who reported not using condoms increased from 11% in 2000 to 26% in 2003, while in San Francisco studies show that rates of unprotected anal sex among gay men have increased from 42% in 1997 to 67% in 2003, according to Lemp. (

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