We are Failing Communities of Color and Young Gay Men

Originally Published: 04/26/2016

According to statistics released by the Minnesota Department of Health, 294 confirmed new cases of HIV were reported in Minnesota during 2015. The Minnesota AIDS Project, the leading source for HIV information and services in Minnesota, believes that this data shows the continued failure of Minnesota leaders to halt the HIV epidemic.

“Two hundred and ninety-four new cases of HIV is completely unacceptable,” said Linda Ewing, CEO of the Minnesota AIDS Project. “As a society, we have the tools and the knowledge to cut new infections in half, but we lack the investment and political will to implement them. In 2016, there is absolutely no reason to continue to see so many people infected with HIV.”

Cases among injection drug users (IDUs) increased by 86 percent in 2015. Despite this, the federal government continues to ban health programs from purchasing syringes with grant funds. This includes MAP’s Mainline syringe exchange, the state’s largest such program.

New HIV cases increased by 24 percent among 20 to 29 year olds. For more than a decade, Minnesota’s political leaders have failed to pass and implement comprehensive sex education with a strong HIV prevention focus that would give young people the knowledge they need to prevent HIV transmission.

The new cases also closely follow the disparities that communities of color experience in our region. More than half of new infections (58 percent) were among communities of color. Among women, more than half were among African-born women, and among men, one-fourth of new cases were among African American men.

These statistics show that more needs to be done in Minnesota. Communities like New York and San Francisco have infused millions into prevention, treatment, and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), and seen dramatic decreases in new infections as well as HIV-related deaths. Minnesota, on the other hand, has seen a continued decrease in funding for HIV prevention over the last 5 years and a rate of new HIV infections that hasn’t budged.

“The Minnesota AIDS Project is calling on government leaders to pass and implement comprehensive sex education that has a strong HIV focus, to end the ban on public funding for syringes, and to fully fund the state’s network of HIV prevention organizations,” Ewing said.