Health care professionals from around the state will gather in Des Moines today for an HIV/AIDS Conference. It’s the 10th year for the event and it comes at a time when the number of Iowans diagnosed with HIV infection has reached it’s highest level since HIV reporting began in 1998.
Patricia Young, the HIV Prevention Coordinator for the Iowa Department of Public Health, says the conference will include discussions of effective strategies and interventions to help people change behaviors that put them at risk for HIV, other sexual transmitted diseases and hepatitis. "It will provide people an opportunity to look at what has been demonstrated in research and look at…how we put that in practice and how that will look for Iowans," Young said.
There were 127 HIV cases diagnosed in Iowa in 2007 – up from 113 in 2006 and the previous high of 117 in 2005. "We’re especially concerned with the people that are late testers or individuals who have been infected for months or years but they only recently underwent testing," Young said. "We want to be sure that people know that HIV is here in Iowa and that testing is available."
Men accounted for 83% of the new HIV cases in Iowa in 2007. Young says men having sex with men remains the number one risk factor for the transmission of the virus that causes AIDS. A disproportionate number of black Iowans are also testing positive.
"Blacks make up about 2.5% of Iowa’s population but account for about 20 percent of the new HIV diagnoses in 2007. So, this conference will be addressing a lot of interventions and topics related to those specific populations," Young said. The HIV/AIDS Conference will take place today and tomorrow at the Holiday Inn Conference Center near the Des Moines Airport.