New HIV infections in South Dakota have reached their lowest point in five years, according to South Dakota’s health department and reported on by the Argus Leader. There were 21 new cases in 2009, down from 34 the previous year.

According to the article, 609 total cases have been reported in the state during the last 25 years. Of that number, 372 live in South Dakota, 186 have died and 51 have left the state. Men account for more than 75 percent of the state’s HIV/AIDS caseload, with men who have sex with men accounting for about 42 percent, or 258 infections, more than twice any other cause. Heterosexual sex and intravenous drug use ranked second and third, respectively.

The 2009 report did not include any newborns, unlike the 2008 report, which included two infants who contracted HIV from their mothers. The state now administers antiretroviral therapy to HIV-positive pregnant mothers to protect unborn children during pregnancy, and positive mothers now have caesarean sections to reduce transmission risk.

“[Pediatric] AIDS is preventable,” said Lon Kightlinger, PhD, the state epidemiologist in Pierre South Dakota. “We’ve had [children born with HIV], most back in the early days. Now with more modern techniques, there’s little excuse.”