A recent film on Home Box Office deals with the story of the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in New York City in the early 1980s.  Having grown up in the Big Apple and having spent many years during the 1980s in medical school and residency taking care of patients with HIV/AIDS, the movie  took me back to an earlier decade when the lack of medical knowledge, fear of the unknown and significant prejudice in our nation against homosexuals were common.  It made me wonder about the current status of HIV/AIDS in our own state.

The New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services released data in October 2013 that covered the five years from 2008 to 2012.  The report indicated that in New Hampshire in 2012 there were 49 new cases of HIV, with an incidence rate of 3.9%.  The majority of those infected were men (78%), and the largest number of new cases was in the age bracket of 40-44.  Seventy-three percent of those infected were white, and 22% were either black or Hispanic.  For AIDS, in 2012, there were 27 cases, 74% of which occurred in whites, and 22% in black or Hispanic patients.  Hillsborough County had the largest incidence of new HIV or AIDS cases.  The most common risk factor was male-to-male sexual contact, with two to three times the incidence of heterosexual contact cases.

According to a report last December on New Hampshire Public Radio, there are approximately 1,200 people living with HIV in our state.  One of the questions raised by the report is whether there are many other people infected with HIV, but don’t know it because of lack of testing and follow-up.  Funding from the state and the Centers for Disease Control has decreased significantly over the past few years.  While those infected with HIV have much greater survival now due to improved medication cocktails and combination therapy, the virus still remains as deadly as ever.  A continuing focus on prevention and testing for the virus is of utmost importance in order to decrease the incidence rate.  Find resources on the New England AIDS Education and Training Center website and listen to today’s episode of “On Call with the New Hampshire Medical Society” on the WFEA 1370 website.  

   In 1981, when I was a senior in high school in Manhattan, my uncle Seymour underwent heart bypass surgery at the age of 60 at the hospital across the street from my school.  He had a blood transfusion and over the next few months developed ongoing infections, lost 50 pounds and died of an unknown illness with multi-organ failure.  In 1995, one of my male cousins contracted HIV.  He is still alive today, likely due to better medical knowledge and medications, and is working as the director of a thriving regional theater and performance company and enjoying life with his husband.  I hope that those living with HIV in our state will be as fortunate. 

Regards,

Stuart J. Glassman, MD

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