Racial disparities a concern as HIV cases in MN go up, report finds

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The number of people diagnosed with HIV increased slightly in 2014 compared to the year before, and the Minnesota Department of Health is concerned about the great disparities among people of color and American Indians.

HIV diagnoses rose by 2 percent last year, with 307 cases reported compared to 300 in 2013, according to a new MDH report released Wednesday.

“Although we saw a slight increase in the overall HIV case reports, some of our communities are carrying a much heavier burden of HIV disease,” Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota's commissioner of health, said in a news release.

Communities of color, especially people who identify as African-born Minnesotans, have a higher infection rate compared to other communities, the report found. The MDH found similar racial disparities with other sexually transmitted diseases in a report released last week.

“Higher HIV infection rates are seen with communities that experience inadequate employment, education, income, and housing,” Ehlinger said in the release.

This has the health department urging for improved access to HIV prevention education, testing, treatment and care services for the communities that are more affected.

An estimated 7,988 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Minnesota: 4,221 with HIV, 3,767 with AIDS, the MDH says. A total of 10,718 HIV/AIDS cases have been reported in the state since the Department of Health began tracking the disease in the early 1980s.

Other key findings:

  • Male-to-male sex remains the leading risk factor for acquiring the disease in Minnesota – 76 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS in the state are male, with men who have sex with men being the exposure method for 62 percent of male cases diagnosed in 2014, the report notes.
  • 86 percent of new HIV cases diagnosed last year were concentrated in the Twin Cities metro.
  • The number of new HIV cases among females increased by 7 percent last year – women of color account for 80 percent of all new female cases.
  • Recent rise in infection rates of other STDs could impact the HIV rates – some STDS can increase HIV transmission or the likelihood of getting infected by two to five times.

Health officials say HIV is preventable if people follow proper prevention methods, including practicing safer sex, and avoiding sharing needles or injecting drugs. Those who aren't able to follow these suggestions can take prescription medications that can help reduce the chance of getting HIV, the MDH notes.

'Dining Out for Life'

Thursday is The Aliveness Project's annual Dining Out for Life where more than 220 restaurants will donate a portion of their proceeds to people living with HIV/AIDS in Minnesota.

A number of restaurants will be donating 100 percent of what they get. For information on participating restaurants and the percentage they'll donate, click here.

Last year's event raised over $257,000 in donations from 37,000 diners. This year, The Aliveness Project hopes to raise $275,000 and have 40,000 diners participate.

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