Minnesota sees 13 percent jump in AIDS cases
DULUTH -- The number of reported AIDS cases in Minnesota jumped 13 percent last year to a 17-year high, the Minnesota Department of Health reported Tuesday.
There were 368 HIV cases reported in 2009, compared with 326 cases in 2008. Most of the cases were in the Twin Cities, although there were two new cases in Carlton County and one each in St. Louis and Pine counties.
The number of cases in young people ages 15 to 24 jumped from 59 in 2008 to 95 in 2009. More than three-fourths of those cases were males.
"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," Dr. Sanne Magnan, Minnesota Commissioner of Health, said in a news release.
There have been 9,176 HIV/AIDS cases reported since the state began tracking AIDS in 1982 and HIV in 1985. The state has averaged just 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 the Department of Health.
Among males, male-to-male sex was the main risk factor in 88 percent of the new cases, the report noted. Although the number of new cases in women slightly decreased to 73, women of color were overrepresented, accounting for three-fourths of new female 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.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that health providers screen all people 13 to 64 years of age 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.
"The good news here is that persons at risk are coming forward to be tested," Carr said. "The challenge is that people may be letting down their guard when it comes to practicing safer sex. ... Some may mistakenly feel the threat of dying from HIV/AIDS is over."
The Department of Health said 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.
Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, said the "alarming" increase in AIDS follows with Minnesota's highest number of cases of other sexually transmitted infections.
"This increase in HIV infection is a serious public health issue and it's critical that Minnesota's public health community is supported in its effort to tackle these rising rates of HIV and sexually transmitted infections. Today's news demonstrates the need for a coordinated, comprehensive, statewide plan and education campaign," Stoesz said in a prepared statement.