Duluth News Tribune (Minn.) (04.24.13)
On April 23, the Minnesota Department of Health reported that St. Louis County had 14 new HIV infections reported in 2012, up from just two in 2011. Statewide, the number of cases was up slightly, from 292 in 2011 to 315 in 2012, according to the health department’s annual report. Jessica Brehmer, a health department HIV epidemiologist, stated that the majority of the cases were in the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area. However, 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. Dr. Andrew Thompson, an infectious disease specialist at St. Luke’s hospital, said that the increase from two to 14 in St. Louis County is “a pretty big jump for a county that’s not that big in population.”
Olmsted County, by contrast, where Rochester is the county seat, had one new case in 2012, too statistically insignificant to compute a rate, according to health department data. Another county that had only one new case was Lake County in Northeastern Minnesota. No new cases were reported in Carlton or Cook counties. Thompson said that the St. Louis County numbers are upsetting, particularly combined with the health department’s recent report stating that Minnesota’s STD numbers had reached an all-time high. However, Brehmer said that the number of HIV cases reported statewide was about at the 10-year average of 317.
The health department noted in a news release that HIV infections are tougher on socially disadvantaged groups—in terms of education, employment, housing, and income—than they are on the general population. Brehmer said that the HIV infection increase is also taking a toll among males in the 13–24 age range. Thompson theorized, “My suspicion is they didn’t live through the 1980s, and they don’t have that kind of fear that the older generation has (about AIDS). I worry about that cavalier attitude that young people may have.”
Minnesota 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 with HIV in Minnesota now, according to the department’s news release.