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CDC Releases New AIDS Report

Aired May 31, 2001 - 10:06   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: Now we're going to go to Washington, where the Centers for Disease Control news conference we mentioned to you is about to begin. This is the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher speaking now. Let's listen in.

DR. DAVID SATCHER, SURGEON GENERAL: ... to friends and colleagues who have been lost to this disease. I think it's fitting, therefore, that we have a few panels of the AIDS quilt on display here today and for that I would like to thank The Names Project. Each of these moving quilt panels represents someone who has died of AIDS and the entire quilt is a symbol that we've all come together to recognize as a lasting memorial to the epidemic's tragic toll.

When CDC investigated the first cases of AIDS in 1981, no one, no one could have foreseen the enormous toll that AIDS would have within 20 years, both in the United States and throughout the world. Nearly 450,000 Americans have died of AIDS and more than a million have been infected with HIV. Throughout the world, over 22 million people have died of AIDS.

This could be the worst infectious disease outbreak in recorded history and an infection that has already impacted almost 60 million people throughout the world. At this milestone, we should honor all of those who have dedicated their lives to stopping this epidemic. We should reflect on the tremendous progress we have made in prevention and treatment, the fact that since the late, mid to late 1980s when we were experiencing 150,000 new HIV infections a year in this country until the early 1990s until today, when we experience about 40,000 new infections a year, we made progress. But clearly, we have much to do and we have much further to go.

Let me just say it's interesting that as we look at what's happened throughout the world, it seems as if increasingly this pandemic is imp[acting the most impoverished people, sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, small villages in China where people sell their blood for survival. And in this country, increasingly the new HIV cases are coming from communities that tend to be most marginalized that have the most difficulty in modifying their behaviors.

From my vantage point, I'm constantly reminded of the importance of prevention, not just with HIV, but with every disease. As a nation, we tend to focus far more on treating diseases than on preventing them. And as a result we face significant financial and human consequences. We desperately need a vaccine for AIDS and we must move more aggressively in that direction. But we also need to be more effective in our other prevention programs.

The role of CDC throughout this epidemic has been primarily on preventing these consequences. They have led the nation's surveillance and prevention efforts to combat this epidemic for over two decades, just as I must say they did with smallpox and with polio. So I'm pleased to be able to join the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today in this very important update on the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the occasion as we approach the 20th anniversary. Thank you.

FRAZIER: Dr. David Satcher, the U.S. surgeon general, speaking, leading off a number of speakers marking the 20th anniversary since AIDS was first diagnosed as a separate condition and not confused with others. This is the CDC calling now for more work on a vaccine for AIDS and also much more work, much more funding for prevention programs.

But as the surgeon general said, the rate of new infections has dropped down from about 150,000 per year in the mid '80s, now down to about 40,000 new cases every year and they'd like to cut that in half -- Daryn?

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now with more on this let's go up to Washington and our Jeanne Meserve -- Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, one of the most striking statistics being released today, the infection rate for young gay and bisexual African-American men. It is 14.7 percent. That's approximately one in seven. Joining me here to discuss this is Cornelius Baker. He's executive director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic here in Washington, D.C.

CORNELIUS BAKER, WHITMAN-WALKER CLINIC: Good morning.

MESERVE: You have said this is the worst thing that could happen to the black community since slavery. What do you mean?

BAKER: Well, what I mean is that the devastation that's being created in our communities, certainly the suffering, the loss, the tragedy and the numbers of people who are infected and the lack of a really coordinated, large scale government response is just absolutely devastating. Certainly these numbers that we see in young gay black men, we see the numbers escalating in black women, black heterosexual men. All throughout our communities our entire family is affected.

MESERVE: Why are we seeing these, the extraordinary numbers? Is this because of a lack of education in the community about the disease? Is it about a lack of services?

BAKER: I think it's a combination of factors. Certainly it's about a very poor, fragmented health care system where people don't have access to ongoing health care. We see high rate of HIV, but we also see high rates of treatable STDs because people don't have ordinary health care. We also know that it's compounded by stigma, by discrimination, by low self-esteem in these communities, particularly in young gay black men.

MESERVE: What are some of the cultural factors at play there?

BAKER: Well, we know that there is a difficulty dealing with homosexuality and so a lot of men don't recognize it publicly. They hide their sexuality, they engage in behavior in very secretive ways that makes it difficult to get prevention programs and messages to people. We also know that there's a stigma against getting tested for HIV, acknowledging HIV, because people don't want to be condemned.

MESERVE: Well, how do we conquer those obstacles?

BAKER: Well, I think that in our -- we have to have leadership. We have to have not only Dr. Satcher and Dr. Gayle, as we just saw, speaking about this. We need the president. We need the secretary of health speaking about this. We need more resources in communities. We need ministers and other leaders in our communities talking about HIV and leading a full scale assault on it.

MESERVE: And within the community, is it going to be difficult to bring that turnaround in attitudes, in approach?

BAKER: I think we're seeing a lot of improvement. I think that, you know, with the devastation, unfortunately, there's been a wake up call to our community and I think we see a lot more leadership developing. I think we see a lot more programs developing. But we have to be all out in this. We have to just not hesitate one bit in really responding.

MESERVE: Cornelius Baker of the Whitman-Walker Clinic, thank you so much for joining us today.

BAKER: Great. Thank you.

MESERVE: We appreciate it.

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