Minnesota HIV cases up 24% in 20-29 age group

HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, particles in purple, cause the disease AIDS. (CDC/ Dr. A. Harrison; Dr. P. Feorino)

A new report from the state health department said the rates of HIV diagnoses have increased significantly in some population groups.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) said the total number of diagnoses in the state was about the same in 2015 as it was in 2014. However, HIV cases among 20- to 29-year-olds increased by 24 percent, with 108 new cases reported in 2015 compared to 87 cases in 2014 in the metro. Higher rates occurred among communities of color and men who have sex with men.

By the numbers

-294 newly reported HIV/AIDS cases in 2015
-306 newly reported HIV/AIDS cases in 2014
-11,007 cases have been reported to MDH since the epidemic began in the state in 1982
-8,215 (estimated) people in Minnesota are living with HIV/AIDS
-Cases among injection drug users up 86% (26 new cases in 2015, 14 in 2014)
-58 percent of newly reported HIV cases were people of color

IDU cases occurred more often with white non-Hispanic males, those between the ages of 20 and 39, Twin Cities metropolitan residents and men who have sex with men.

Among females, more than half of all new cases were African-born. Among males, more than one-fourth of all new cases were African-American, Non-Hispanic men.

Limited testing, higher rates

"We are seeing higher HIV infection rates in communities with limited access to HIV testing and prevention programs due to longstanding social, medical or income disadvantages," said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger. "We can reduce these rates by improving access to services through expanded partnerships for HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care within these communities."

How to prevent HIV

The following information was provided by MDH:

Health officials noted that HIV infection remains highly preventable. Measures proven to prevent the spread of HIV include consistently practicing safer sex, including always using condoms the correct way, limiting the number of sexual partners and avoiding the sharing of needles or equipment to tattoo, body pierce or inject drugs.

For those at substantial risk of getting HIV, a daily prevention pill is now available by prescription from a health care provider. This is referred to as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP. Among those who would benefit from PrEP are injection drug users and those who have multiple sexual partners. Individuals can talk about getting PrEP with their health care provider; those who don't have a health care provider can contact the Minnesota AIDS Project (MAP) AIDSLine for assistance.

For those diagnosed with HIV infection, Commissioner Ehlinger emphasized that getting into treatment can drastically reduce the spread of HIV.

"Reducing the number of new HIV infections is a key public health goal, and sexually active individuals and people who inject drugs can help by getting tested and knowing their status," Commissioner Ehlinger said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends health providers screen all people ages 13 to 64 for HIV. 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. Sexual partners and needle-sharing partners of HIV infected patients also need to get tested and treated. Getting tested for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is important since infection with other STDs can increase the likelihood of HIV transmission by two to five times.