The HIV, AIDs rate is increasing among blacks and Hispanics in California, according to newly-compiled data.

The information, from a statewide analysis of health data completed in recognition of the recent World AIDS Day, also shows that hospitalization rates among HIV and AIDS patients has dropped sharply since 1988, evidence that antiretroviral drugs introduced in 1997 help keep the illness in check.

The health data analysis revealed that between 1988 and 2008 the number of white people with HIV/AIDS had almost doubled, while the number of cases for blacks had tripled and it was up more than five times for Hispanics. Native Americans and Asian/Pacific Islanders with HIV/AIDs has also increased dramatically in number, but the overall representation number is still low.

In a conference call with reporters, Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, said much has changed with HIV and AIDs since he was a family physician in Redding, Ca. in the 1990s -- an era when young men with AIDs simply returned home to their families to die.

Now, longevity is an expectation following diagnosis, but Chapman said even though we've come a long way since then, and there have been miraculous advances in treatment, there is still a ways to go.

Among the findings from the statewide analysis:

  • HIV, AIDs patients are older. Some 70 percent of those diagnosed with HIV/AIDs are between the ages of 40 and 64, according to the latest data. That's a dramatic shift from 1988, when the majority of HIV/AIDs patients were between the ages of 20 and 39.
  • It began as a man's disease but cases in women have risen sharply. Men are still more likely to have HIV/AIDs, cases among women have risen more than six times since 1988. Today, women make up about 10 percent of the total cases.
  • Hospitalization rates have fallen dramatically for HIV/AIDs specific reasons. However, hospitalization for mental and alcohol/drug-related issues have more than doubled.

Dr. Chapman encouraged testing, since as many as 20 percent of those with HIV/AIDs don't know they have it, threatening further spread.

One important way we can prevent the spread of HIV is to ensure that everyone knows their HIV status, he said, in a statement.

The report also noted that gains in patient longevity and stability after HIV/AIDS diagnosis could be threatened or reversed if access to antiretroviral drugs were limited.

HIV medications not only help HIV infected persons live longer, healthier lives, but also decrease the chance that they will transmit HIV, Dr. Chapman said.