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HIV Increasing Among Michigan Teenagers

Contact: James McCurtis, Jr. (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health, Department of

November 30, 2009

As World AIDS Day approaches on Tuesday, Dec. 1, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) has announced the fourth consecutive year that Michigan is experiencing significant increases in HIV among teenagers. This is a trend that is occurring nationally as well. Click here for a list of World AIDS Day activities in Michigan

The rate of new diagnoses among 13 to 19 year olds in Michigan more than doubled between 2003 and 2007 (from 3.2 to 7.3 cases per 100,000). The rate among those aged 20 to 24 years old at diagnosis was level following three previous years of increases. Of the 13 to 19 year olds diagnosed with HIV/AIDS between 2003 and 2007, 85 percent are African American and almost two thirds (62 percent) are African-American males having sex with males.

"We cannot afford to become complacent with HIV and AIDS in Michigan," said MDCH Director Janet Olszewski. "Because of the availability of medicines to treat this illness, many individuals believe AIDS is something of the past, but it is still a public health threat that we need to double our efforts to eliminate. In particular, we need to increase prevention efforts among youth and specifically tailor these programs to those at highest risk."

HIV/AIDS continues to disproportionately affect the state's African-American males. There were significant increases in rates of new diagnoses among black males whereas the rate among white males decreased. African Americans make up 14 percent of the state's population, but accounted for 60 percent of all cases of HIV/AIDS diagnosed in 2007 with a rate more than ten times higher than that among whites (37.6 vs 3.5 cases per 100,000).

"These trends underscore the importance of continuing to ensure that there are a range of options for Michigan's residents to be tested and to learn their HIV status, including highly targeted programs for MSM and African-American communities," said Amna Osman, director for the MDCH Division of Health, Wellness and Disease Control. "Early diagnosis is critical to helping those who are found to be HIV infected live healthier and longer lives through proper treatment."

"The rise in HIV infection among adolescents and young adults makes two things very clear," said Dr. Elizabeth Secord, medical director of the Horizons Project at Children's Hospital of Michigan. "First, we need to do a better job educating and influencing adolescents about HIV prevention, that is, about safe and responsible sex. Second, we need to bring testing to the young people who are at risk so that they can get treatment if needed. At a time when federal funds are decreasing for these efforts, we need the help of not just the medical community, but also the community at large. Tolerance, education and community awareness are the best tools we have."

MDCH continues to focus its prevention resources on those communities that HIV and AIDS have had the greatest impact. MDCH provides more than $2 million in federal funding to support highly targeted, community-based HIV prevention services, including testing and health education/risk reduction services. In 2008, 40 percent of the HIV tests performed in public sites were for individuals under the age of 24. Twenty six percent of all individuals receiving health education/risk reduction services were under the age of 25. Twenty percent of all individuals receiving health education/risk reduction services were African American MSM.

MDCH also receives funds from the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) under the Minority AIDS Initiative, to link persons with HIV/AIDS to essential medical services and the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. This program, Youth Link, focuses on provision of outreach efforts targeting African-American youth living with HIV/AIDS in Detroit.

"This data make us painfully aware of the impact of HIV/AIDS on our youth and our community as a whole," said Andrea Roberson, Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion (DHWP) HIV/AIDS Programs Director. "If we hope to positively impact the present and future generations, we must develop innovative strategies, for example using social networks, to decrease stigma while updating our prevention education services to better reach our youth. We have established partnerships with our school system and youth agencies."

DHWP's Counseling, Testing and Referral Unit provides free HIV testing with extended hours to make testing more readily available. DHWP's Prevention, Education and Training (P.E.T.) and Mobile Teams offer programs specifically targeted to youth to address the urgency of this epidemic. Testing is available at Herman Kiefer Health Complex Monday -Thursday 7am-7pm and Fridays 7 a.m. -5:30pm. For more information contact (313) 876-0756.

HIV trends among injecting drug users are showing significant declines, an average of 9 percent per year between 2003 and 2007, (78 to 59 cases). Men who have sex with men (MSM) of all races and ethnicities continue to lead the epidemic in Michigan.

Information on HIV/AIDS in Michigan can be found on the MDCH HIV Web site at http://www.michigan.gov/hivstd.