Increase in AIDS reported

May 29, 1994|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Sun Staff Writer

Nineteen people in Harford County died of AIDS in the year that ended March 31, 1994, nearly doubling the number who died of the disease the previous year.

The statistics were included in a communicable disease update presented to the County Council Tuesday by county Health Officer Thomas M. Thomas and his staff.

Mr. Thomas also noted that 96 cases of AIDS have been reported in Harford County. That figure has more than doubled since 1991, he told the council, which also sits as the Board of Health.

Part of the dramatic increase in cumulative cases can be attributed to a change in the definition of acquired immune deficiency syndrome by the Atlanta-based national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he said.

The new definition, which became effective in January 1993, is broader and includes more of those infected as AIDS patients.

But even without the revised definition, Harford's figures would indicate a steady increase in AIDS since the state began keeping records in 1981, said Deputy Health Officer Beverly Stump.

In the past year, 23 new cases of the deadly disease have been reported in the county, she said. In the year before that, 20 new cases were reported.

Statewide, the total number of AIDS cases grew from 47 in 1984 to 8,272 this year.

"It's out there, and it's included in every community," Dr. Stump said after the meeting. "It's not just an urban situation. It's everywhere."

Many people have been known to live several years after testing positive for the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS, but life expectancy after the onset of AIDS is greatly reduced, Dr. Stump noted.

She said that of the 8,272 AIDS patients reported in the state since 1981, 4,967 -- more than half -- have died. In Harford County, 35 of the 96 reported AIDS patients are still alive.

Voluntary HIV testing among Harford residents is also rising, Mr. Thomas said. He noted that by 1990, five years after HIV testing became available, the county was testing about 500 people a year.

That number doubled to 1,000 in 1991. Last year the county tested 1,042 people, of whom nine tested positive, Mr. Thomas said.

He said HIV testing in the county hit its high in 1992, when more than 1,500 people submitted to voluntary HIV testing. He attributed that number, in part, to public concern about the disease after basketball star Earvin "Magic" Johnson revealed in late 1991 that he was infected with HIV.

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