AIDS' grip tightens on city's young Death rate is 22.4% in 25-44 age group

September 25, 1992|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,Staff Writer

A headline in yesterday's editions of The Sun said the death rate in Baltimore among people in the 22-44 age group is 22.4 percent. In fact, the story said that by 1991 AIDS accounted for 22.4 percent of the deaths in the 22-44 age group in Baltimore.

The Sun regrets the errors.

The AIDS epidemic tightened its grip last year as the leading killer of young adults in Baltimore, widening the gap over homicide and other diseases, city health officials said yesterday.

New statistics from the Baltimore Health Department came as the federal Centers for Disease Control issued a report citing Baltimore and three other cities -- San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York -- as places where acquired immune deficiency syndrome has become the leading cause of death among adults 25 to 44 years old.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

It's a demographic group that includes men and women of all races.

Dr. Susan Chu, acting chief of the CDC's AIDS surveillance section, said she suspected a definitive list would be much longer. But she lacked adequate data from all cities.

In Baltimore, 1989 was the year AIDS surpassed homicide as the leading killer of young adults. That year, it accounted for 14.1 percent of all deaths in that age group. But by 1991, AIDS had widened the gap -- accounting for 22.4 percent of deaths, compared with 11.9 percent for homicide.

Dr. Chu cautioned that death rates reflect only the tip of the iceberg: People dying today contracted the human immunodeficiency virus several years ago. Nationally, people are contracting the AIDS virus at a rate that remains steady. And the number of people living with AIDS continues to rise, putting an increasing burden on hospitals, health clinics and insurers that are already struggling to keep up.

"If we find these mortality figures alarming, we'd better wake up," Dr. Chu said.

The number of newly diagnosed AIDS cases continues to rise in cities across America. New cases were diagnosed in Baltimore last year at a rate of 23.4 cases per 100,000 people in the general population -- higher than Philadelphia, slightly lower than Washington and Los Angeles, and far lower than in cities such as New York, San Francisco and Miami.

In Miami, the rate was 101 new cases per 100,000 people.

Yesterday's CDC report focused on death rates through 1989 that were reported by Baltimore Health Department. Systems analyst Tom McArdell of the city Health Department, however, ++ supplied The Sun with death rates through 1991.

"The one thing we don't get used to is young people dying," said Dr. Peter Beilenson, the city's new health commissioner.

"The financial aspects of this are huge in that we already have a large problem with uninsured and inadequately insured people," said. "The health care system eats some of the care."

Dr. Beilenson said he was concerned about prospects that medical assistance to AIDS patients and other people in need might be drastically reduced as a way of coping with Maryland's budget deficit.

"Any further cuts are not going to help matters. They're only going to make things more difficult."

Adults between the ages of 25 and 44 are the demographic group hit hardest by AIDS. A look at a slightly younger age group, 15-24, reveals a different picture.

Dr. Beilenson said he suspected homicide is still the leading killer in that age group. While people in that age group are exposing themselves to HIV through sexual activity and drug abuse, it is unlikely that they will succumb to AIDS until they get older.

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