A total of 292 new HIV cases were reported in the state in 2011 compared with 331 cases in 2010, representing a 12 percent decline, according to a new report from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). However, health officials cautioned that certain population groups have seen increases.
“While the overall drop in cases is encouraging, it’s concerning that we continue to see increases and higher rates among some of our communities.” said Peter Carr, manager of the STD and HIV Section at MDH.
A total of 9,785 HIV/AIDS cases have been reported since MDH began tracking AIDS in 1982 and HIV in 1985; there are an estimated 7,136 persons living with HIV in the state. The MDH report shows that certain communities are being hit harder than others:
• HIV cases among women rose 9 percent with increases seen among African-born, African American, Latina and Asian women. Among women (all ages) with known risk factors, heterosexual sex was the leading risk factor, accounting for 98 percent of cases. Women of color accounted for 81 percent of all new cases reported among women.
• Communities of color experienced the greatest health disparities when looking at infection rates by race and ethnicity compared to whites.
• Male-to-male sex was the main risk factor for males of all ages with known risk factors, making up 92 percent of male cases. Young males 13 to 24 years of age accounted for 22 percent of all new male cases in 2011. All racial/ethnic populations saw a decrease in cases except African-born males, who saw a 31 percent increase, and Asian males, whose case count remained the same from 2010 to 2011.
• New HIV cases remain concentrated within the Twin Cities metropolitan area (86 percent) with an11 percent increase reported in the suburbs in 2011 as compared to 2010, primarily due to an increase seen among women.
• One in three reported HIV cases were among 20 to 29 year olds.
• Among people living with HIV/AIDS in Minnesota, communities of color and men who have sex with men continue to be overrepresented.
Although there is no cure or vaccine, health officials emphasize that HIV infection remains highly preventable. Consistently practicing safer sex, including using condoms and limiting the number of sexual partners, as well as avoiding the sharing of needles or equipment to tattoo, body pierce or inject drugs are proven to prevent the spread of HIV.
Health officials also noted that getting tested for HIV and getting into treatment if infected is now more important than ever. Persons in treatment have shown a 95 percent reduction in HIV transmission rates when compared to infected persons who are not in treatment.
Health officials expressed concern that recent increases in the rates of other STDs could impact HIV rates. Syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea all increased in 2011, according to MDH data. “While we observed a drop in HIV/AIDS cases in 2011, we must remember that factors leading to these other sexually transmitted diseases can result in further spread of HIV,” said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, state epidemiologist with MDH.
“Contributing factors that lead to higher HIV infection rates among some of our communities include powerful social factors such as employment, education, income, housing and neighborhoods,” said Carr. “Lower income levels ultimately result in limited access to health insurance and quality health care, including HIV prevention education, testing, treatment and care services.”
To help curb the epidemic in Minnesota, the STD and HIV Section at MDH currently funds 25 programs through 18 agencies aimed at preventing the spread of HIV in adults and young people of all races. The Office of Minority and Multicultural Health (OMMH) at MDH provides funding for capacity building to community-based organizations to help them educate and teach skills that impact individuals, organizations, and communities in the fight to eradicate HIV/AIDS.
The HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report – 2011 can be found on the MDH website at http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/hiv/hivstatistics.html.