New HIV infections in Minnesota dipped slightly last year, but infection rates among several subgroups — young people, minorities and intravenous drug users — rose significantly.
The state recorded 294 new HIV and AIDS cases last year, down from 306 in 2014, according to an annual HIV surveillance report issued Wednesday by the Minnesota Department of Health. But health officials said they are alarmed by an increase in certain populations and groups.
New HIV cases among Minnesotans aged 20 to 29 increased by 24 percent in 2015, the department said. The majority of cases occurred in the Twin Cities area, and included sharply higher rates within communities of color and men who have sex with men.
“We are seeing higher HIV infection rates in communities with limited access to HIV testing and prevention programs due to long-standing social, medical or income disadvantages,” said state Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger in a statement Wednesday. “We can reduce these rates by improving access to services through expanded partnerships for HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care within these communities.”
Intravenous drug users saw HIV numbers jump 86 percent, with 26 new cases in 2015. Those cases occurred more often among white non-Hispanic males under age 40.
Public health officials are recommending those at higher risk of contracting HIV to undergo screenings and consider taking pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, to limit the potential for spreading HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
“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.
Youssef Rddad is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.