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Young people, minorities, Twin Cities hit hardest by new HIV cases, report finds

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The total number of new HIV diagnoses in Minnesota slightly decreased in 2015, but health officials are concerned about the higher rates of infection among certain demographics – specifically young people, minorities, Twin Cities metro area residents and people who use injection drugs.

The report released by the Minnesota Department of Health Wednesday shows there were a total of 294 new reported HIV cases in 2015, compared to 306 in 2014.

It is estimated that 8,215 people in Minnesota are currently living with HIV/AIDS.

HIV infections higher for certain groups

“We are seeing higher HIV infection rates in communities with limited access to HIV testing and prevention programs due to longstanding social, medical or income disadvantages,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger in a news release.

Here are a few key findings from the report:

  • There was an overall higher rate of new HIV cases among men who have sex with men. The group makes up nearly 55 percent of all HIV cases in the state.
  • Twin Cities metro area residents also had an increased rate of infections. Less than 65 percent of Minnesota's population lives in the metro area, while more than 85 percent of new cases came from there. Hennepin County had the highest number of new infections in the state.
  • New cases of HIV among young people (ages 20-29) increased by 24 percent.
  • A total of 58 percent of newly reported infections were from communities of color.
  • The number of cases among injection drug users increased by 86 percent – most often these are white males between 20-39 years old.

Prevention

HIV is highly preventable, noted the report, by consistently practicing safe sex, always using condoms correctly, limiting the number of sexual partners and avoiding sharing needles.

Health officials noted in the report that screening people for HIV and providing treatment can drastically reduce the spread of the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends screening individuals who are considered at risk between the ages of 13-64 annually.

“Reducing the number of new HIV infections is a key public health goal, and sexually active individuals and people who inject drugs can help by getting tested and knowing their status,” Ehlinger said.

The Minnesota Department of Health said individuals who are at a high risk of infection because they may be exposed to the virus regularly – such as injection drug users and those who have multiple sexual partners – can possibly avoid contracting HIV by taking the daily prevention pill referred to as PrEP. 

It's a daily pill that the Minnesota AIDS Project says can reduce the risk of infection by 92-99 percent, and was endorsed by the CDC in 2014. You can read more and watch a video about PrEP here.

The Minnesota Department of Health funds 20 community based programs related to HIV prevention and testing that are listed here.

Overall, sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise in Minnesota – another report released by the Minnesota Department of Health this month noted that the growth rate of cases is "disturbingly high."

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