Associated Press (10.27.03) - Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Karin Mongeon, North Dakota's AIDS program manager, said the
state must step up efforts to fight the disease, given
changing attitudes and a growing methamphetamine problem.
"When you look at what we are doing here, we are behind other
states," she said.
The state has the lowest number of HIV/AIDS cases per capita
in the country, with 312 cases and 117 deaths reported over
the last 18 years. An average of 17 new cases are reported
North Dakota receives more than $1 million per year for
prevention and surveillance from the federal government. One-
fourth of the money goes for housing and medical assistance
for low-income patients. Surveillance receives $60,000,
including testing and partner identification, while $727,002
per year pays for prevention including advertisements, a Web
site and a toll- free information line. A prevention-planning
group works with the state to allocate the prevention budget.
The group includes gay men, heterosexuals, people with
HIV/AIDS and state-level prevention workers.
Complacency due to new drug therapy, coupled with conservative
attitudes and inadequate funding, cripple aggressive efforts
to stem the spread of the virus, according to Mongeon and
Stephen McDonough, state epidemiologist.
Another concern for health officials is a possible increase in
AIDS cases due to a rise in methamphetamine use. In the last
five years, according to state data, there was a 7 percent
increase in the number of people infected with HIV/AIDS
because of intravenous drug use.
"As far as education, we have a long way to go," said Steve
Wagendorf, an HIV-positive man on the state's prevention
board. "People still think you can catch it by being in the
same room, and it's simply because they haven't been affected
by it. Unless they come up with a cure or vaccine, everyone
someday is going to be affected by it."