A federal study shows the number of Americans newly-infected with HIV remained stable between 2006 and ’09, but infections are rising in certain categories. Betty Krones, a disease prevention specialist at the Cerro Gordo County Health Department, says the data shows a 21-percent rise in the number of younger people with HIV in the 13-to-29 age category, as well as an increase in cases for young black men.
She says blacks are eight times more likely to be infected with HIV than whites. She says there’s a larger stigma of being a black gay man than there is a white gay man, leading to fewer black gay men being tested.
Krones says blacks are at a higher risk of being infected with sexually-transmitted diseases. She says blacks have a higher incidence of other STDs, like gonorrhea, which can make it easier for a person to catch HIV if they come in contact with it. The latest figures for Iowa find about 1,600 people statewide living with HIV or AIDS, with about 1,300 of those cases in men. Typically, between 100 and 120 new cases are diagnosed each year in Iowa.
Krones says the rise in the rate of people in their teens and 20s being infected with HIV is due to that age group thinking they are invincible to STDs. She says a lot of times they are underestimating their risk, not having to worry since they aren’t thinking about their mortality.
Over the four-year period of the study, there was an average of 50,000 new cases of HIV per year. Krones says while that doesn’t sound like much compared to the overall population, it’s still a number people should be wary about.
“It’s 50,000 lifetimes,” she says. “It’s not 50,000 this year, we cured them, they got better and they went on their way. That’s 50,000 every year and it doesn’t go away.” Many county health departments across Iowa offer HIV testing.
By Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City