4 MONTROSE VOICE/FEBRUARY 14, 1986
Decline in Other STD's Too
AIDS Cases Reported in Houston Levels Off
By Pete Diamond
Montrose Voice Staff Reporter
In the seven years since the first cases of
AIDS were reported in the U.S., some
16,500 people have been afflicted with the
disease. Each month the number of people
diagnosed as having AIDS continues to
climb, and the national Center for Disease
Control estimates there will be between
14,000 and 15,000 new cases this year.
Despite this grim prediction, there is
some encouraging news. According to statistics compiled by the City of Houston
Department of Health and Human Services, the number of reported AIDS cases in
Houston appears to be leveling off.
From 1981 to 1984, the number of new
AIDS cases more than doubled each year.
Last year was the exception, however. In
1985, 192 new cases of AIDS were diagnosed, compared to 171 cases in 1984.
Houston Health Director Dr. James
Haughton says he first began noticing the
apparent slowdown of new cases early in
1985. And although he predicts the trend
to continue this year, Haughton cautions
that the AIDS virus may remain dormant
for five years or more. Therefore it is difficult to estimate the number of Houstonians who may eventually develop AIDS.
Haughton added there is a lag in the
reporting of new AIDS cases and the total
number of cases for 1985 may exceed 200.
Even if this does occur, he says the total
will still be far less than the doubling of
Tom Audette, administrative director
for the Montrose Clinic, does not dispute
the reported leveling off of AIDS cases, but
questions the reliability of the statistics.
"We see the figures leveling off, but are
they accurate? I'm just not sure."
Audette says he is uncertain whether
the actual number of AIDS cases is
decreasing or if the reporting of new cases
is decreasing. Discrimination towards
persons with AIDS is no longer suspected,
he says. It has been documented.
A diagnosis of AIDS may, as in some
cases, result in an individual losing his
job, being evicted from an apartment or
even being shunned by friends and family
members. It is this threat of discrimination that Audette believes may be causing
some individuals to not tell a person he
has AIDS if some doubt exists in the diagnosis or not reporting that a patient has
AIDS in order to protect the individual.
If the city's statistics are an accurate
indication of how many people in Houston
have AIDS, several ideas have been
offered to account for why the number of
new cases appears to be leveling off.
Haughton suggests one reason for this
may be that fewer gay men are moving to
Houston, something he believes has
resulted from the defeat of the gay job
rights referendum and anti-homosexual
rhetoric during last November's election.
Audette, on the contrary, disputes this
thought as "pure conjecture" because it is
difficult to prove.
However, the two men agree that a leveling off of AIDS cases could be attributable
to safer sex practices and educational
materials about preventing AIDS. "People
are more conscious of their health today. If
their immunity system is depressed,
they're seeking help to try to correct it,"
Audette says. "Gay men have absolutely
changed their sexual habits overall.
There's no question in my mind."
This change in sexual habits has also
had a dramatic impact on the incidence of
sexually transmitted diseases (STD's)
among gay men. Audette explained that
in contrast to the ever-growing number of
people with AIDS, fewer people are requiring treatment for STD's.
Citywide, the number of cases of gonorrhea and syphilis has declined significantly among both the gay and general
populations. However, the rate of decline
for the gay population was nearly twice as
rapid as that of the general population.
From 1982 to 1985, gonorrhea dropped
63.3 percent among gays and syphilis
decreased 58.2 percent. This is compared
to a 41.2 percent decline in gonorrhea for
the general population and a drop of 39.8
percent in the incidence of syphilis.
Audette says he is not surprised by the
drop in the number of STD cases. "It's
directly attributable to safe sex," he says.
"Most people have dramatically changed
their sexual habits. Relationships are in."
But Audette is concerned that some people may develop a false sense of security
about contracting an STD because the
numbers are down. Audette sayB it is
unfortunate, for example, that fewer people are taking the Hepatitis B vaccine.
Many people are more concerned about
spending their money to take the HTLV-III
or PACE (Program for AIDS Counseling
and Evaluation) test than the Hepatitis B
vaccine, he says. "We need to try to forget
AIDS for a while and remember to take
preventative health measures such as the
Nevertheless, Audette maintains "it's
important to constantly hammer into people's heads the ways of preventing AIDS."
Some of the people most susceptible to
being exposed to the AIDS virus are those
who are ignorant of how to prevent exposure, he says.
Despite the encouraging statistics
showing the number of new AIDS cases
may be leveling off in Houston, Audette
says there is still reason to be concerned.
While the number of cases in Houston may
stabilize somewhat, they may increase in
another city—for a period of time—and
then these "trends" may reverse themselves.
"Maybe I'm being too pessimistic about
it," he says. "I hope the figures are true,
(but) we are in no way out of the woods.
The worst thing we can do is imply that we
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Tropical Aqua Fest Party All Weekend
Friday, Feb. 14
8-10pm— 10<t Well drinks
Warner Brothers World Video Premiere Paul Jabora "Ocho Rios" at Midnight. Door Prizes and Drink Specials All
2am-5pm Houston's Hottest After Hours S2 cover
Saturday, Feb. 15
8-10pm— 10C Well Drinks
No Cover Tonight with your Mardi Gras Finale Ticket DJ/VJ Michael Lowery Spins
2am-5«im Feel the Electricity ■ DANCE ■ $2 cover
Sunday, Feb. 16
5pm—The Party Continues on Pacific Street
"Tropical Aqua Fest" Decorations Phillip McClain. Free Draft All Day/All Night. Hurricane Specials—Leis—Door Prizes
2am-4am After Hours and only S2 cover
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Sunday, February 23
plus The St. Valentine's Day
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Pacific at Grant 52 1-0 107
Party All Night