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Health and Human Services


HDHHS Releases Newly Revised Estimates of Local HIV Incidence on World AIDS Day

The estimated rate of HIV incidence in Houston (43.6 per 100,000 persons) is almost two times greater than the national rate of new infections (22.8 per 100,000 persons) according to data released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and analysis of data reported in Houston and Harris County.

For the first time, the Houston Department of Health and Human Services (HDHHS) was able to directly estimate the number of new HIV infections in Houston and further categorize them by race, gender, age and mode of transmission.  Using new technology developed by CDC, HDHHS estimated 1,700 people were newly infected with HIV in 2006.

The new estimate does not represent an increase in the annual number of new HIV infections but a more accurate way to estimate the number of new infections.  This provides a better tool for analyzing HIV risk and directing programming.

Today is World AIDS Day, organized annually to raise awareness of the impact that AIDS has in society and help prevent the spread of HIV.

Consistent with national findings, area African Americans were most affected by HIV. This population accounted for 52 percent of new HIV infections, while comprising only 18 percent of the Houston population.  In Houston, African Americans have nearly five times the rate of new HIV infections (127 per 100,000) compared to other races (35 per 100,000 among Hispanics and 19 per 100,000 among White/Other races).  Overall, African Americans and Hispanics accounted for 78 percent of new HIV infections in 2006.

These findings show an urgent need to direct prevention programs to groups that are disproportionately affected.  Strong commitment to implement effective prevention programs is necessary in order to control the HIV epidemic. 

Over the past two years, the HDHHS’ Bureau of HIV/STD and Viral Hepatitis Prevention has been working with many community partners and advocates in planning and setting priorities for HIV prevention services.  HDHHS, along with the Houston HIV Prevention Community Planning Group, the African American State of Emergency Task Force, the Latino HIIV Task Force, and several other community partners:

  • Launched the Houston Response to ACT Against AIDS in collaboration with CDC’s new efforts to target and reach African Americans where they live, work, play, and worship.
  • Expanded access to HIV testing and STD clinical treatment services through mobile testing vans assigned to areas with the highest prevalence of HIV and STDs. 
  • Expanded the capacity of community based organizations to provide prevention counseling and testing, and other evidenced based interventions to those at highest risk in neighborhoods, community centers, parks, homeless shelters, and school environments.
  • Secured a one million dollar CDC grant to expand HIV testing in three local emergency rooms, one Federally Qualified Health Center, and one community based clinic.
  • Secured supplemental general revenue funding to more than double the number of public health specialists that provide essential client and partner services to all Houstonians testing positive for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Launched an unprecedented outbreak response to syphilis cases in Houston/Harris County which included innovative integration and leveraging of community partners to provide counseling and testing services for HIV, as well as syphilis, gonorrhea, and Chlamydia
  • Identified more than $200,000 in additional funding from state and federal sources to develop new and innovative strategies to reach populations at greatest risk for HIV infection.

“We will remain committed to our goals to expand the reach of prevention services, increase opportunities for diagnosing and treating HIV, develop new, effective prevention interventions and mobilize broader community action,” said Marlene McNeese-Ward, HDHHS’ bureau chief for HIV/STD and Viral Hepatitis Prevention. “With these strategies, we can keep the promise to stop AIDS in Houston and open doors for others to follow this model.  Our leadership is the key.”

In addition to these efforts, the HDHHS, working with its community partners, supports and provides funding for community forums, events, and conferences focused on HIV/AIDS prevention, including National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in February, National HIV Testing Day in June, National Latino AIDS Awareness Day in October and observations for World AIDS Day on December 1.

This news release was issued December 1, 2008.