HIV/AIDS cases increase 13 percent in stateThe number of new HIV cases in the state increased by 13 percent in 2009, marking a 17-year high, according to a new preliminary report from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
By: Staff Report, Alexandria Echo Press
The number of new HIV cases in the state increased by 13 percent in 2009, marking a 17-year high, according to a new preliminary report from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
There were 368 HIV cases reported in 2009, compared with 326 cases in 2008.
“This increase in cases tells us that HIV/AIDS remains a significant health threat in Minnesota, and we need to take steps to strengthen our prevention efforts,” said Dr. Sanne Magnan, Minnesota Commissioner of Health.
MDH data show that a total of 9,176 HIV/AIDS cases have been reported since MDH began tracking AIDS in 1982 and HIV in 1985. The state averaged a little over 300 cases per year for nearly a decade.
“We haven’t seen the annual number of reported HIV cases at this level since 1992,” said Peter Carr, manager of the HIV and Sexually Transmitted Disease Section at MDH. “The increase is driven primarily by a large increase among males 15 to 24 years of age.”
Findings included in the report include:
--There were 95 cases reported among 15 to 24 year olds in 2009; 59 cases in the same age group in 2008. Of the 95 cases in 2009, 77 of them (81 percent) were males.
--Among males, male-to-male sex was the main risk factor for 88 percent.
--Of young male cases, 45 percent were white, 39 percent African-American, 11 percent Latino, 3 percent Asian, 1 percent African-born, and 1 percent multi-racial.
--Although the number of new cases in women slightly decreased to 73, women of color were overrepresented, accounting for 74 percent of new female cases.
--The new HIV cases remained concentrated within the Twin Cities metropolitan area, with increases reported in St. Paul/Ramsey, Anoka and Dakota counties. Minneapolis experienced a slight decrease in reported cases
“We do not think that the case increase is simply explained by more testing since there is no indication that public clinics provided more HIV tests in 2009,” said Carr.
HIV testing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that health providers screen all persons 13 to 64 years of age. Annual HIV screening is recommended for those at risk who have had unprotected sex, a new sexual partner, or shared needles or equipment to inject drugs.
MDH data show that 42 percent of cases 15 to 24 years of age had previously been tested before turning HIV positive in 2009 and 29 percent were initially tested within the last year.
“The good news here is that persons at risk are coming forward to be tested,” said Carr. “The challenge is that people may be letting down their guard when it comes to practicing safer sex. Although there are medications to help treat HIV infection, some may mistakenly feel the threat of dying from HIV/AIDS is over.”
HIV infection remains highly preventable, although health officials emphasize that there still is no cure or vaccine to stop HIV/AIDS. Ways to prevent or reduce the spread of HIV include avoiding or delaying the start of sexual activity, using latex condoms consistently and correctly and avoiding the sharing of needles or equipment to tattoo, body pierce or inject drugs.
To help curb the rise in HIV cases in Minnesota, MDH is working with a wide variety of community partners and state and local agencies to address the increases in new infections. For example, using federal grant money, MDH has expanded HIV prevention and HIV testing programs targeting young and adult men who have sex with men, young heterosexuals, particularly African-American youth, and African-born persons. Additional activities include consultation with community partners, developing educational materials, and a summit with area health providers and community members in February 2010.
At the national level, a new public awareness campaign has been launched, “Act against AIDS,” to encourage testing, reduce risky behaviors and provide awareness on the impact HIV/AIDS has had in the U.S. Downloadable resources and information are available on the campaign’s web site: http://www.NineAndaHalfMinutes.org.
The preliminary HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report – 2009 can be found on the MDH Web site at http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/hiv/hivstatistics.html.
Information about HIV is available from the Minnesota AIDS Project (MAP) AIDSLine, 612-373-2437 (Twin Cities Metro), 1-800-248-2437 (Statewide), 1-888-820-2437 (Statewide TTY), or by e-mail at: email@example.com. MAP AIDSLine offers statewide information and referral services, including prevention education, HIV risk assessments, HIV testing and referrals to HIV testing sites.