HIV Cases Rising in Wisconsin

A record number of people are living with HIV and AIDS in Wisconsin.

New numbers show an alarming increase in the number of new cases in 2004 as the community continues its fight against the disease.

"I'm a long term survivor and have had multiple near–death experiences," says George Moore.

He has been living with HIV for 16 years. He says the social stigma is still attached to the disease.

"I've had people ask me to leave their homes because they were afraid they'd infect their children," he says, "It's a very hard thing to hear especially when you know you can't infect them."

But now more people than ever before are infected with HIV in Wisconsin. According to statistics released by the Department of Health and Family Services, 417 people reported new infections in 2004.

That's a 15% increase from 2003 and brings the total number of people living with HIV to more than 5,000.

Surprisingly, the only category that saw increases last year was men having sex with men.

AIDS Network Executive Director, Bob Power, says, "If it's younger gay men who didn't go though the first wave of the AIDS epidemic those messages may not have mattered to them."

Messages he says are being swayed by a moral agenda, not good public policy, as the AIDS Network lost more than $65,000 this year for prevention.

"All of the abstinence–only curriculas are failing dismally," says Power, "For the President to increase that funding by $38 million is a disaster waiting to happen, and I think we're beginning to see it."

The good news, fewer people died from AIDS last year thanks to improving health care.

Moore went from 70 pills a day to just a handful. But he says the best treatment can never equal the value of prevention.

"I'm very happy to still be here," says Moore, "It's the reason I both live with HIV and work in the field, because there are times I'm able to give people hope that they can stay alive with this."

In 2004, 66 people died of AIDS in Wisconsin. That's the lowest number since 1986.

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