More than 56,000 new cases of HIV are diagnosed every year; the number of new HIV infections in Minnesota rose 25 percent in 2009. This increase brings the number of new HIV cases back to levels seen in the 90's. According to the Minnesota AIDS project, this dramatic increase in HIV infections can be linked to the decline of comprehensive sex ed in public schools, a general sense that the risk of contracting HIV is low and the perception that HIV is a manageable disease. These and other social factors have contributed to men ages 15 to 24 seeing the largest increase in HIV cases in Minnesota.
Prevention is the key to saving lives and money. Prevention begins with comprehensive sex education. Young people need to know behaviors that put a person at risk for HIV/STIs and the methods to best prevent exposure. Through Title X funding, Planned Parenthood provided counseling, education and conducted 10,000 HIV tests in Minnesota last year. Unfortunately, Title X funding and other preventative care funding is at risk of being eliminated by the GOP majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. While the U.S. Senate rejected the budget bill removing funding from Planned Parenthood, we still do not have a finalized budget.
Removing funding from preventative health programs is negligent and short-sighted. Public health programs have helped prevent 340,000 babies from being born with HIV. Cutting funding for these programs would have a devastating effect for a generation of children being born with HIV especially when mother to child transmission is easily preventable. Cost to treat one HIV infection is over $25,000 per year, but programs to help cover the costs of these treatments may also be cut pushing the burden onto states. Public Health programs need to be above petty partisan politics, preventing disease and promoting health benefits all.
-by Rachel Nygaard, Web Correspondent, Planned Parenthood Advocate