While the spotlight on the disease has waned, a handful of new HIV/AIDS cases continues to appear each year in Southeast Missouri.
Fifteen new cases were reported in a 20-county region in Southeast Missouri in 2003 -- the latest year for which data is available -- according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
"Infections are still occurring, and any infection is one too many," said Charlotte Craig, director of the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center.
A total of 428 people living in Southeast Missouri were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS between 1985 and 2003.
Eighty-three of those diagnoses have come from Cape Girardeau County, including three in 2003.
Scott County has had a total of 41 diagnoses of HIV/AIDS since 1982. Data for Bollinger and Perry counties were lumped into a "remainder of region" category that included 14 other counties. Among those counties, 143 people were diagnosed between 1982 and 2003.
According to a profile study by the Department of Health and Senior Services, the number of diagnoses has leveled off in Southeast Missouri since 2001. New cases dropped from a steady pace of 30-plus a year between 1992 and 1998 to 14 in 2001 and 15 in 2002 and 2003.
Statewide, new cases each year have decreased by 140 percent from a peak 1,233 diagnoses in 1989 to the 510 new cases diagnosed in 2003.
The public health center operates an HIV/AIDS clinic that offers primary medical care to those infected. More than 70 people from throughout Southeast Missouri are patients there.
Craig said she believes the number of total cases continues to increase locally, adding that just because a case is reported in Cape Girardeau County doesn't mean the disease was contracted here.
"People who become infected often return home to family and friends for support," Craig said.
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