HIV epidemic reported in Minneapolis and surrounding areas
HIV cases have increased over the past two years in Hennepin County, Minnesota, home to Minneapolis, the state’s largest city. The epidemic is focusing on people who have injected drugs, experienced homelessness or transmitted HIV through sex, reports the Star Tribune.
At least 54 people have tested positive for HIV in the past two years. The typical average for the region is less than three new cases per year.
“While this epidemic does not compare to the levels of new cases in the early years of the HIV epidemic, it is one of the largest since the annual number of new cases stabilized over the years. Past 20 years, ”Allison La Pointe, MPH, senior epidemiologist in the HIV section of the state health department, told the newspaper.
“Anytime we see a higher number of reported cases than expected,” she said, “it’s important and worrying for us.”
The COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing opioid crisis – including the advent of synthetic opioids – are leading to the surge in HIV cases. Health officials were first alerted to rising HIV rates in January 2020, but despite their prevention efforts, the numbers have not declined.
Two other counties in the state – Ramsey and St. Louis – have also reported HIV outbreaks; each county has experienced nearly 15 new HIV diagnoses.
Other states and counties are tackling HIV outbreaks linked to injection drug use and homelessness. For two recent examples, read “UPDATE: More cases identified in Boston’s HIV epidemic,” “US senator calls for investigation of HIV epidemic in West Virginia” and “700% increase of HIV cases in one county of Ohio ”.
Sharing needles and injection drug equipment is one of the many ways that HIV is transmitted. To learn more, see HIV Basics in POZ.