The number of Iowans diagnosed with HIV in 2017 decreased from the previous year, but the figure still remains one of the highest on record, according to a report from the state health department.
In 2017, 125 people were diagnosed with HIV — or human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS and interferes with the body’s ability to fight infections — according to the 2017 HIV Disease End-of-Year Surveillance Report from the Iowa Department of Public Health.
The 2017 diagnosis rate is the second-largest number of diagnoses in the past five years. However, this is less than 2016, which saw 137 Iowans diagnosed.
But the high figures might not necessarily be a bad sign.
“The high number of diagnoses may be an indication people at risk for HIV are responding to increased outreach and are getting tested. If that’s the case, it’s a positive sign,” said Nicole Kolm-Valdivia, Iowa Department of Public Health Bureau of HIV, STD and hepatitis data manager.
The decline in 2017 was due to a decrease in diagnosis among foreign-born individuals, which typically is influenced by migration to the state.
According to the report, diagnoses among foreign-born individuals accounted for 22 percent of all diagnoses in the past five years.
Among other findings in the report:
l The largest proportion of HIV cases are among non-Hispanic, white Iowans, but black and Latino Iowans continue to be disproportionately affected. Although African-Americans make up 3 percent and Latinos make up 6 percent of Iowa’s population, they account for 30 and 13 percent of the state’s HIV diagnoses, respectively.
l Thirty-eight black and 16 Hispanic and/or Latino Iowans were diagnosed with HIV in 2017.
l According to the Department of Public Health report, 274 individuals were living with HIV in Linn County at the end of 2017. One hundred eighty-four people were living in Johnson County during that same period.
l Fifty-six percent of people diagnosed with HIV in 2017 were men who have had sexual contact with other men, which is the leading exposure category for HIV, the report stated.
l Despite the high rate in the past two years, there is an estimate of more than 300 Iowans who have yet to be diagnosed, the report stated, so Iowa may “experience several more years of higher numbers of people diagnosed with HIV.”
l As of the end of 2017, there were 2,790 people living in Iowa who were with a diagnosed HIV disease. But state health officials estimate there may have been as many as 3,181 Iowans living with HIV or AIDS — meaning 391 people could be undiagnosed.
Since HIV infection became reportable by name in 1998, a total of 1,305 deaths have been recorded in Iowa among people diagnosed with HIV or AIDS.
Twenty-seven Iowans with HIV died in 2017. Of those, 13 deaths had HIV listed on the death certificate as a contributing factor.
In 2016, there were 39,782 total HIV diagnoses nationwide, 5,068 of which occurred in the Midwest, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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The Department of Public Health released its 2017-2021 Comprehensive HIV Plan in a statewide effort to offer services to members of populations disproportionately affected or living with HIV or AIDS. The plan focuses on three initiatives — statewide coordinated statement of need, a HIV prevention and care plan, and monitoring and improvement.
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