HIV Diagnoses Among Wisconsin's Youth Have Doubled Over Last Decade

Health Advocates Say They're Confronting The Same Challenges As They Always Have
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It's been 35 years since the world first heard of HIV, a disease which has taken more than 35 million lives worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

While tremendous progress has been made in battling the epidemic, the number of newly diagnosed cases among young people in Wisconsin has doubled since 2005, according to the state Department of Health Services.

Thursday marked World AIDS Day. Ronnie Grace, coordinator for HIV & STI Prevention with Diverse & Resilient, an LGBT public health organization based in Milwaukee, was out at a local Boys and Girls Club reminding people that while more people today are now getting treatment than ever before, there's still more work to do. He added that it's largely the same issues that are preventing progress.

"Issues around disclosure, issues around stigma, which is huge in our community," he said. "There's the access to care portion that we're still trying to manage. And just overall access to housing, all of those things kind of figure into whether or not people take care of themselves, go in and get tested, stay in treatment and care."

Grace said HIV diagnoses are disproportionately affecting people of color, homosexual men and transsexual women. He added that too many cases are concentrated in the Milwaukee area.

According to state Department of Health Services, 5,535 people in Wisconsin were living with diagnosed HIV in 2013; of those, 80 percent were men, 37 percent were African-American, 13 percent were Latino and 45 percent were white.

There were 230 new HIV diagnoses in 2014, and 225 new cases in 2015.

Medical advancements have brought relief, said Grace. New medications have come onto the market that are less toxic, and in some cases, are able to be taken after being exposed to the virus, much like the morning after pill.

"We have so many people who don't feel like they're at risk for HIV, they're not going in to get tested because they think that's not me, I'm not doing those kinds of things," Grace said.

Grace said he and other healthcare advocates are making sure they're letting people know there are resources out there to get help. Together, he said, we can drastically bring down HIV rates in the state.

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