HIV infections up sharply in St. Louis CountyThe numbers are small but troubling, a Duluth specialist said.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
The numbers are small but troubling, a Duluth specialist said.
St. Louis County had 14 new HIV infections reported last year, up from just two in 2011, the Minnesota Department of Health reported on Tuesday.
“I’m alarmed by it,” said Dr. Andrew Thompson, an infectious disease specialist at St. Luke’s hospital.
Statewide, the number of cases was up slightly, from 292 in 2011 to 315 last year, the Health Department said in its annual report. The vast majority of the cases were in the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area, said Jessica Brehmer, an HIV epidemiologist with the Health Department.
But St. Louis County had both the third-highest number of cases and the third-highest rate, with a rate of seven cases for every 100,000 people, the Health Department reported.
The increase from two to 14 is “a pretty big jump for a county that’s not that big in population,” Thompson said.
By contrast, Olmsted County, where Rochester is the county seat, had one new case in 2012, too statistically insignificant to compute a rate, according to Health Department data. In Northeastern Minnesota, Lake County also had one new case; no new cases were reported in Carlton or Cook counties.
The numbers for St. Louis County are upsetting, Thompson said, particularly in combination with the Health Department’s report two weeks ago that the number of sexually transmitted diseases in the state had reached an all-time high.
However, the number of HIV cases reported statewide was about at the 10-year average of 317, Brehmer said.
HIV infections hit socially disadvantaged groups — in terms of employment, education, income and housing — harder than the general population, the Health Department noted in a news release.
It’s also taking an increasing toll among males in the 13-24 age range, Brehmer said.
Thompson said he doesn’t know why that is, but he has a theory.
“My suspicious is they didn’t live through the 1980s, and they don’t have that kind of fear that the older generation has (about AIDS),” he said “I worry about that cavalier attitude that young people may have.”
The state has had 10,112 HIV/AIDS cases since the health department began tracking AIDS in 1982 and HIV in 1985. An estimated 7,516 people are living in Minnesota with HIV now, the department’s news release said.