BALTIMORE — HIV infections in the United States have fallen for several years and few places have seen a bigger drop than Maryland, according to new estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Baltimore Sun reports.
Cases in the state dropped an average of 7.5 percent per year from 2008 to 2014. That was more than twice the national decline of 3.6 percent per year.
Public health officials attributed the progress to education campaigns, a push to get high-risk people tested and treated, drugs that block infection and, most notably, needle exchange programs in Baltimore, the Sun reports.
“The impact of syringe exchanges has been enormous,” said Jeffrey Hitt, director of the Infectious Disease Prevention and Health Services Bureau in the state health department, according to the Sun article. “About a decade ago that was primary mode of transmission in Baltimore and Maryland, people injecting drugs and sharing equipment.”
While the public health community is pleased overall with declines shared across the country, they say progress has been uneven among groups of people.
The District of Columbia, Georgia and Illinois had bigger drops in new cases than Maryland. Four other states also saw significant declines. Among 28 other states where the CDC made estimates, infections were basically unchanged. Some other states had too few cases to make estimates of a change, the Sun notes.
The biggest decrease nationally, 56 percent, was among people who injected drugs. Then came heterosexuals with a 36 percent drop.
New cases dropped among some groups of gay men, including those who were white or under 24, while they rose for gay men ages 25-34, the Baltimore Sun reports.
GBT people, particularly African-Americans, have been the most vexing crowd for Baltimore health officials, said Dr. Leana Wen, the city’s health commissioner.