The true goal of journalism should be to serve the best interests of the public/reader by thorough and honest reporting. Reporting statistical information deserves special treatment in order to effectively communicate to the public accurate and factual information.
In the most recent BND article, "St. Clair County HIV cases up nearly 30 percent in five years," the newspaper provided misleading information on HIV data in St. Clair County, reporting existing cases of HIV infection rather than new cases of HIV infection in the county. It is unclear if sensationalism or the challenge of interpreting statistical data from the Illinois Department of Public Health is to blame for this misleading article.
Illinois Department of Public Health HIV Surveillance Data For 2005-2011 in St. Clair County reveals:
* 15 percent increase in new HIV cases
* 5 percent decrease in new HIV cases among men who report having sex with other men and using injection drugs
* 0 percent increase in HIV cases attributed to individuals who inject drugs (IDUs).
* Of the 16 percent increase in overall new HIV cases, 25 percent of those were among high-risk heterosexuals and 65 percent were among men who have sex with men.
* In 2006, 18 percent of all new HIV cases were among high-risk heterosexuals.
* ln 2011, 25 percent of all new HIV cases were among high-risk heterosexuals.
The effectiveness of the Bethany Place Needle Exchange Program is reflected in the lack of any increase in HIV cases attributed to injection drug use for the 2006-2011 period. In addition to the Syringe Exchange Program, Bethany Place partners with area grade schools, high schools, all local colleges, churches and organizations to educate the students and community on HIV/ AIDS and preventative measures. However, it is imperative everyone work together in sharing the message of prevention and factual reporting.
Angela Barnes is executive director of Bethany Place in Belleville.