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In Maine, AIDS, HIV Cases on Rise
  Bangor Daily News Meg Haskell
July 30, 2003
State officials say the number of people in Maine living with HIV/AIDS has never been higher, reflecting a nationwide trend. State Bureau of Health statistics show more than 500 people diagnosed with AIDS in Maine and 700 with HIV. Bureau epidemiologist Mark Griswold said that between January 1 and July 24, 2003, 33 cases of HIV were reported. For the same period last year, the figure was just 19, with 39 the total for the year. Twenty-eight AIDS cases have been reported so far this year, compared with 21 during the same period last year and 42 for all of 2002.
"The numbers are tiny," Griswold said, "but still it's very troubling."
He said another concern is the rise in STDs that usually signals a change in sexual behavior and forecasts a rise in HIV/AIDS diagnoses. The incidence of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis all rose in Maine this year.
Griswold said almost all of Maine's HIV/AIDS cases result from men having sex with men; a secondary source is needle sharing.
Unlike the high-profile early days of HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness efforts, Griswold says fewer people are getting tested early. He and Drew Thomits, supervisor of educational programs for the Eastern Maine AIDS Network in Bangor, attribute the general lack of public interest to "protection fatigue" among older gay and bisexual men, and a younger generation of men who have not seen the ravages of AIDS firsthand.
EMAN provides education, testing and support for men, women and teens, including those who are HIV-negative, Thomits said. Presentations at high schools and community groups, weekly support groups and anonymous HIV testing at its offices and other locations, including jails and substance abuse centers, help spread the word about prevention and treatment, Thomits said.
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