There’s promising news in the battle against HIV and AIDS in Iowa. New diagnoses of HIV dropped by 19-percent last year compared to 2013. A report from the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) shows 99 Iowans were diagnosed with HIV last year — the fewest diagnoses since 2003, when there were 88 recorded.
Randy Mayer is head of the IDPH’s Bureau of HIV, STD and Hepatitis. “We saw the decreases in diagnoses cut across a lot of different groups in the state; those 25-and-older, both whites and blacks, gay and bisexual men, heterosexuals, injection drug users, and men and women all saw decreases in diagnoses,” Mayer says.
According to Mayer, his agency altered its attack on HIV a few years ago. Previously, the focus was on Iowans who were considered “at risk” for contracting the virus. “We changed our focus to be one that really is working with people who already know they have HIV and trying to ensure that they don’t transmit to other people,” Mayer says.
The new reports shows there still areas of concern. Mayer says too many Iowans diagnosed with HIV are “late testers,” so they may be unknowingly spreading the virus to others.
“So, those are people who have had HIV for 7 to 10 years before they get a test and get diagnosed,” Mayer says. “Almost half of the people who were diagnosed in 2014 had a late diagnosis. So, clearly, we need to improve testing.” According to the new report, there were 2,369 HIV-infected persons residing in Iowa at the end of 2014.