Five Million Americans at High Risk of Catching AIDS

ByABC News
July 8, 2000, 4:51 PM

July 9 -- Despite a decrease in AIDS infection since the 1980s, Americans continue to engage in risky sex behavior and drug habits, leading some experts to fear a return to the days when the disease was rampant.

Im scared by the trends we are starting to see, said Dr.Helene Gayle, AIDS chief at the U.S. Centers for disease Controland Prevention.

Gayle presented the latest data at a briefing hosted bythe American Medical Association on the eve of the 13thInternational Conference on AIDS in Durban, South Africa.

Five million Americans have sexand drug habits that put them at a high risk of catching AIDS,according to a new U.S. survey. Public health officialsworry that complacency about the disease could affect at-risk populations especially young, gay men that could bring AIDS back.

Studies Find Troublesome Behavior

Two large-scale surveys conducted by the CDC found that between 2 and 4 percent of the adult population still put themselves at high risk.

These people, which represent 4 to 5 million nationwide, include those having six or more sexual partners annually, having sex with someone known to be infected with HIV, engaging inprostitution for drugs or money, having male homosexual contact,using crack cocaine or injecting drugs.

Gayle said the study did not attempt to learn whether this levelof risky behavior is increasing or decreasing.

Evidence seems to point out both could be possible. While condom use hasincreased substantially since the 1980s, only about 40percent of unmarried people and 23 percent of drug users reportusing them.

About 40,000 Americans contract HIV each year, downfrom the 100,000 new infections annually during the mid 80s. Theimprovement is attributed largely to safer sex habits and avoidingdirty needles.

Gay Men at Risk

Over the last decade, infection rates among gay men haveremained stable at between 1 percent and 4 percent.

But troubling signs are beginning to appear.