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Death rate of HIV-infected Multnomah County residents drops sharply

Study shows 86 percent fewer fatalities than 10 years ago

A new study by the Multnomah County Health Department shows that the death rate of HIV-infected residents has dropped 86 percent in the last 10 years.

HIV was the sixth leading cause of death in Multnomah County in 1994, according to the study, but it no longer ranks among the 20 greatest causes of death locally. In recent years the availability of antiretroviral therapies, or drug cocktails known as HAART, has extended the lives and increased the quality of life among people infected with HIV.

Jon Duckart, senior research analyst with the county health department, said the study showed that death rates from HIV in Oregon actually contradict a national trend. Nationally, Duckart said, death rates are higher among minorities, with African-Americans half as likely to receive the latest medications.

But according to Duckart, the study showed that HIV sufferers in Multnomah County are being treated similarly and they suffer similar death rates regardless of race or ethnicity.

'It looks as though African-Americans and Hispanics are receiving the same kind of access to HAART as white non-Hispanics,' Duckart said.

Despite the equivalent death rates between HIV-infected whites and non-whites, the overall proportion of deaths from the disease is higher among minorities, Duckart said. The explanation, he said, has to do with the changing proportion of who is becoming infected.

According to the study, from 1990-1994 there were 702 HIV-related deaths in Multnomah County. From 2000-2004 there were 179 deaths. But the proportion of minority deaths from HIV has risen from 10 percent to 20 percent.

'The demographics of who's getting the disease have changed even though there's been a substantial decline in the death rate,' Duckart said. 'What is really driving it (the proportionally higher deaths among minorities) are far fewer non-Hispanic whites getting the disease.' Duckart said the data also showed that women are now becoming infected at a higher rate than men.

The full health department study can be found at:

www.co.multnomah.or.us/health/hra/haq/summer2006_hiv.pdf

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