More Michigan Teens Becoming Infected with HIV

Todd Heywood

Michigan teenagers continue to become infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, at an alarming rate, Michigan health officials say.

This article originally appeared in the Michigan Messenger and is reprinted here in partnership with the Center for Independent Journalism, Michigan Messenger and Rewire. It is also part of a series on global AIDS issues to be published by Rewire throughout December. To find other articles in the series, search “global AIDS 2009” on Rewire.

teenagers continue to become infected with HIV, the virus that causes
AIDS, at an alarming rate, Michigan health officials say.

From a press release from the Michigan Department of Community Health in advance of Tuesday’s World AIDS Day events:

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.

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That trend is mirrored by nationally, the MDCH says.

More from the release:

“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.”

Of course this underlines the HIV situation in Detroit that incoming Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh called an “emergency” and a “crisis” in November.

Pugh told Michigan Messenger Detroit had to do more, and that sentiment was echoed in the MDCH press release:

“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.”

And state officials are moving to counter this trend. The state’s
three year comprehensive prevention strategy has been finalized, and it
specifically calls for a focus on African-American men who have sex
with men populations as a prevention focus. Michigan Messenger obtained
the 37-page strategy document Monday, and it can be read here.

State documents show
(PDF) that as of October 2009, 14,187 people have been diagnosed with
HIV, or AIDS, and the state estimates a total of 18,200 people in the
state may be infected with the virus.

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