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Health officials push education, testing as they monitor HIV outbreaks in Minnesota

Dec 01, 2021 05:54AM ● By Editor
Photo: KARE 11 News

By Samantha Fischer from KARE 11 News - November 30, 2021

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) says it is monitoring two active HIV outbreaks in Minnesota, and is encouraging people to get tested and educate themselves about prevention and treatment.

According to a statement released by MDH Tuesday, outbreaks have been detected in the Twin Cities metro and Duluth areas. Officials say this is the first time since the 80s that a defined outbreak has been detected.

“These are the first defined outbreaks in Minnesota since the epidemic began in the 1980s, and primarily involve people who inject drugs and people experiencing unstable housing, as well as people with newly diagnosed HIV in the Duluth region," said Christine Jones, manager of STD/HIV/TB programs at MDH.

MDH reports that over two-thirds of new HIV diagnoses are in communities of color, and those disparities spill over into the community's health outcomes, including how they access care and retain it. MDH says the inequities stem from structural racism, the housing crisis and the drug overdose emergency.

Mariah Wilberg, statewide HIV strategy and services coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, says the stigma against people living with HIV has exacerbated the problem.

“Stigma against people living with HIV and people who use drugs factors into our work every day,” said Wilberg. “People living with HIV can live long and healthy lives with access to care and treatment. But too often stigma prevents people from getting tested, and stigma prevents those who test positive from getting treated."

MDH recommends that anyone between 13 and 64 years old be tested for HIV at least one time, unless they are sexually active or share syringes, in which case they recommend being tested yearly.

The push toward more awareness comes the day before World AIDS Day, which is observed Wednesday, Dec. 1.

To see the original story and related reports, follow this link to the KARE 11 News website.