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April 20, 2009

Minnesota’s HIV Rates Remain High for Third Straight Year

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 2008 marked the third consecutive year new cases of HIV have been higher than the norm, the Star Tribune reports. On average, Minnesota had 300 new cases reported every year beginning in 2001, but about 320 cases were reported in each of the last three years, said Peter Carr, director of the STD and HIV section at the health department.

Health officials are particularly worried about a rise in the number of new cases among young men ages 13 to 24, many of whom are men who have sex with men (MSM). Last year, 42 new HIV cases were among young men, up from 18 in 2002. Experts attribute this jump to the fact that those in this age group were born after HIV emerged in the 1980s and are less aware of transmission risk factors. In addition, since HIV is no longer a death sentence thanks to advances in antiretroviral therapy, young people do not perceive the virus as a serious threat.

According to the article, HIV also continues to disproportionately affect the state’s men and women of color. Even though these groups make up a small portion of Minnesota’s population, black women comprise 70 percent of new infections among women; similarly, men of color accounted for 39 percent of infections among men in 2008.

“Socioeconomic status appears to be the most important factor in communities and neighborhoods where higher rates of HIV infection are seen,” Carr said. “Limited incomes can mean lack of insurance, limited access to health care, poor housing situations, homelessness [and] social stigma.”

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