Jun 14, 2021 - News
Data shows Iowa's HIV infections are decreasing
Data: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Chart: Axios Visuals

Iowa ranks near the top in the nation for its low HIV incidences and for having the "best health outcomes" for people living with HIV, said John Shaw, prevention services manager of The Project with Primary Health Care.

Driving the news: New CDC data shows Iowa is among the top five states in the U.S. for connecting people newly diagnosed with HIV to medical care.

  • And we're No. 2 for getting people living with HIV on viral suppressants.

By the numbers: Our total HIV diagnoses and estimated incidences reduced by nearly 30% between 2015-19, according to the CDC.

  • Iowa connects 91% of people diagnosed with HIV to medical care within a month. The average is 81%.
  • We rank second (82%) in the U.S. for viral suppression among people living with HIV.

What's helping: Over the last five years, there's been a strategic change in how the U.S. should stop the spread of HIV — mainly through medicine, Shaw said.

  • In 2018, a federal task force urged doctors to prescribe PrEP — a medicine that prevents HIV from sex or drug use — to high-risk communities. The recommendation also opened access to the drug by categorizing it as "preventative" under insurance plans.
  • In 2019, former President Trump announced plans to "end America's epidemic of HIV" by getting everyone with it on TasP — medicine that prevents the sexual transmission of HIV.

And in Iowa, health officials have pushed to better connect higher-risk people, like gay/bi men and Black and Latino communities, to tests and drug treatment.

  • Plus: People in rural areas who want PrEP or an HIV test can call in and have either sent to them, Shaw said.

Yes, but: 13 people in Polk County were diagnosed with HIV the last two weeks of May — an unusually high number, said county Health Department spokesperson Nola Aigner Davis.

  • People may have waited to get tested because of the pandemic or felt stigmatized for having sex when we were supposed to socially distance, Aigner Davis said.

The big picture: It was only 40 years ago the AIDS epidemic gripped our country, disproportionately harming marginalized communities.

  • We saw this again during the COVID pandemic — highlighting the systemic barriers communities face in terms of exposure and accessing care.

Learn more how you can get free STD/STI testing here.

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