In response to a 17-year high in new HIV cases in 2009, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has announced a plan to create more HIV testing and education programs aimed at men who have sex with men (MSM) ages 15 to 24, reports minnpost.com.

The number of new HIV diagnoses in Minnesota increased from 326 in 2008 to 368 in 2009, according to the MDH, with most of those cases occurring among young MSM.

“We've certainly seen that trend in our office,” said Frank Rhame, MD, an HIV specialist at Allina Medical Clinic in Minnesota. “I see these young gay men taking risks, and they've gotten infected, and it breaks your heart. It's probably true that [HIV] is not going to shave much off their life expectancy, but it's sure going to change their lives.”

Methamphetamine use is a driving force behind the uptick in HIV incidence among Minnesota MSM, Rhame said. “It's not everybody, but a lot of them will acknowledge that it was during crystal meth use that the infection arose.”

Rhame estimated more than 50 percent of HIV-positive MSM in his practice became infected while under the influence of crystal meth.