The Iowa Department of Public Health says the number of H-I-V cases in the state last year rose to its highest level since H-I-V reporting began in 1998. There were 127 cases diagnosed in 2007 — up from 113 in 2006 and the previous high of 117 in 2005. Randy Mayer overseas the H-I-V program at the department, and says men account for 83 percent of the new cases in 2007.
Mayer says the increase doesn’t seem to be the result of more people getting tested. “We think that it’s more because there are more unsafe behaviors going on, or high-risk behaviors among this group of people (gay men),” Mayer says. He says men having sex with men remains the number one risk factor for the transmission of the virus that causes AIDS.
Mayer says Iowa’s numbers go against the national trend. He says the national data didn’t show a big increase in H-I-V in gays, but Minnesota released its figures last week and they were similar to Iowa. Mayer says one of the concerns is the number of ‘late testers.’
Mayer says they had an increase in the number of people getting tested late that already had symptoms of the disease. He says they’d like to see people getting tested earlier, and says they have a number of sites that offer free tests. Mayer says they will continue efforts to educate people about preventing the spread of H-I-V.
“We have a number of programs in the state specifically targeted at men who have sex with men,” Mayer says. He says they are community based programs that try to change the norms of behavior. The Iowa Department of Public Health tested more than eight thousand people for H-I-V in 2007. For more information about the prevention, testing and treatment of H-I-V and AIDS, go to the Department of Public Health’s website.