Good news, bad news in HIV data

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 1, 2010

There are 1.1 million people in the United States living with HIV/Aids today.

Of those, 16,843 reside in Alabama, and 62 live in Covington County, according to data released by Auburn University at Montgomery’s Center for Demographic Research.

The numbers, while staggering, show that the number of new cases diagnosed were down in 2009. According to the data sheet, 16.35 per 100,000 Alabamians were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 2009, compared with 19.45 per 100,000 in data released last year.

While there is an apparent reduction in HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases, specifically chlamydia and syphilis, are on the rise, and the state’s teen pregnancy rate remains high. Our county’s teen pregnancy rate is higher than the state and national averages.

In Alabama, 39.2 per 1,000 females ages 10-19 became pregnant this year. The highest rate was in Bullock County, where there were 95.7 pregnancies per 1,000 females of the same age group. In Covington County, 44.2 per 1,000 females ages 10 to 19 became pregnant in the past year.

While it is very good news that the HIV rate is down, the increases in sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies show that we as a society, we aren’t doing enough to promote abstinence and/or safe sex.

Just two weeks alone, Pope Benedict XVI suggested that condoms could be used as part of the fight against HIV/AIDS, a bold step for the Catholic Church, which previously opposed the use of condoms and other forms of birth control.

Statistics show that children born to teen mothers are more likely to grow up in poverty, therefore extending the cycle of poverty and the demands upon state and national social services. And it is not an issue that affects only minorities.

If you are the parent, grandparent, or teacher of a teen, make sure that they understand the side effects of sex – can be long-lasting and life-changing.