A record number of Iowans were diagnosed with HIV last year, according to a new report from the Iowa Department of Public Health.
The agency’s Nicole Kolm-Valdivia credits increased testing, rather than a rise in the transmission rate. “Although it can be alarming to see more diagnoses, we generally are seeing it as a sign some of our outreach and media efforts are working, because it could mean that people have improved access to health care,” Kolm-Valdivia said.
In 2016, 136 Iowans were diagnosed with HIV. That represents roughly a 10 percent increase over the previous year. “We had 123 people diagnosed with HIV in 2015,” Kolm-Valdivia said. “In 2014, we actually had a significant drop with under 100 people diagnosed that year.”
Iowans who are living with HIV today are having better health outcomes compared to many years ago, according to Kolm-Valdivia. “HIV is treated more like a chronic disease now, rather than an infectious disease,” Kolm-Valdivia said. “We see when people are diagnosed early and they adhere to their medical care and medications…it’s treated like a chronic disease, kind of like diabetes. So, the health outcomes of people with HIV – when they adhere to their medications – are quite similar to those who do not have HIV.”
The IDPH estimates there are currently around 400 Iowans who don’t know they are HIV positive.