Every twenty seven hours a new case of HIV is reported in Minnesota. There are currently 6220 people living with HIV and AIDS in Minnesota and an estimated 2.500 people are believed to be living with HIV without knowing their status. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reports a steady increase in the number of new HIV cases in the state: The number of HIV (non-AIDS) diagnoses has remained fairly constant since the mid-1990s at approximately 200 cases per year. However, over the past four years there has been a moderate increase from 198 cases in 2004 to 245 cases in 2008, a 24 percent increase.
World AIDS Day is officially December 1, but observances begin before and continue after the day (see sidebar.)
World AIDS Day events
Advances in antiretroviral medications, which keeping HIV patients alive and in relatively good health have changed the face of people infected by HIV.
Dave Folken, from the Minnesota AIDS Project, suggests that one of the reasons for HIV increase is a surge of new infections in different demographics including young people. They did not receive the first round of public awareness campaigns when young adults grew up knowing and understanding AIDS.
Folken says that young people, and others, do not realize that AIDS is still a very dangerous disease. “They think that HIV is like other sexually transmitted diseases,” he says, “that it is treatable and not a big deal.”
Folken is encouraged by initiatives by the White House to formulate a national AIDS strategy that would not only focus on prevention and education, but that also would include concerted efforts in combating HIV and AIDS. The Office of National Policy on AIDS describes its role as “coordinating the continuing efforts of the government to reduce the number of HIV infections across the United States. The Office emphasizes prevention through wide-ranging education initiatives and helps to coordinate the care and treatment of citizens with HIV/AIDS.”
Another group that is concerning healthcare workers is African-born immigrants. According to MDH, African-born immigrants comprised 11 percent of new cases in 2008. Abdullahi Sheikh of the Minneapolis Urban League identifies some reasons: stigma, little education on contracting and receiving medical attention for HIV and cultural norms.
“One scenario keeps playing itself out with African immigrants,” he says. “For refugee communities, their social structure has broken down … rape in refugee camps, gender hierarchy, poverty and displacement, factors that increase vulnerability and risk.”
Other at-risk groups in Minnesota and around the country, that are seeing an increase in new HIV cases are the elderly, gay and bisexual men and women in general, and particularly African American women.
According to MDH, 22 percent of new cases of adult and adolescent HIV disease in Minnesota are among African Americans, who represent just over four percent of the state’s population. Overall, new cases in women made up 27 percent of the 2008 data.
On the global front, there’s a global decline in new HIV infections, but there is continued concern that poor people do not have access to antiretroviral drugs. Further, the United Nations program on AIDS reports a 10 percent decrease in AIDS deaths. In its global initiative, the United States has launched a five-year program for capacity building and self-sustaining programs that would rely less on donations but on preventive programs.
Besides the World AIDS Day observances, testing is available all year. The Minnesota Department of Health lists these resources:
• Examples include: Rural AIDS Action Network, Hennepin County Public Health Clinic, Room 111, West Side Community Health Services, Teenage Medical Service, Face-to-Face Health and Counseling Service, Family Tree Clinic, University Family Physicians/North Memorial, Open Door Clinic – Mankato, etc.
• Contact the Minnesota AIDS Project AIDSLine for clinic and organizational locations and office hours at: Metro – (612) 373-AIDS; (612) 373-2465 TTY; Statewide – 1-800-248-AIDS; 1-888-820-2437 TTY; or online.
• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its web site to include a widget where you can locate an HIV testing site by entering your Zip Code.
• African Health Action Corporation (AHA) offers HIV and hepatitis C testing, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Monday – Friday. Appointments preferred but will take walk-ins. For more information, contact AHA at (612) 216-3886, or by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Crown Medical Center offers free HIV testing for walk-ins or by appointment, five days a week, Monday through Friday, and on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The clinic is located at: 1925 1st Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55403. For more information call (612) 871-4354 or visit their web site.