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MN Nonprofit Hopes New Campaign Efforts Curb HIV Cases


Monday, December 2, 2019   

MINNEAPOLIS — December is AIDS Awareness Month, and a Minnesota nonprofit hopes more people at risk of contracting the disease will become educated about prevention.

In Minnesota, instances of HIV have remained steady in recent years. The state health department said there were 286 new cases in 2018. That's consistent with the transmission rate over the past decade.

Paul Skrbec, marketing manager for Just-Us Health, an outreach and advocacy organization for the LGBTQ community, said they're still confident they can reach their goal of zero new transmissions. He said they need to keep getting their message out.

"We have all the tools that we need at this point,” Skrbec said. “We just need people to be aware that they're there and how to access them."

Skrbec pointed to the work being done in New York City, where new cases have fallen below 2,000 a year for the first time since the city started keeping records in 2001. He said the decline there and in other cities can be attributed to at-risk individuals taking daily medication that experts say helps reduce transmission risk more than use of condoms alone.

There is also the "U-equals-U" campaign, where those living with HIV are encouraged to maintain a prescribed treatment that suppresses the disease to the point that the viral load is undetectable and it can't be spread to sexual partners.

Despite the optimism, there are still concerns that some demographic groups are more likely to be exposed to the virus. Skrbec said that's certainly the case in Minnesota.

"When you look at it through the lens of communities of color and impacts that they experience compared to other communities, there's definitely a disproportionate impact,” he said.

Minnesota health officials say in 2018, people of color accounted for nearly 60% of new HIV cases. And women of color represented nearly 70% of new cases among females.

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