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Community groups plan AIDS events, Minnesota releases HIV/AIDS report card

Local organizations commemorate the 23rd World AIDS Day Dec. 1 with events starting today and continuing on in coming days and including hip-hop, HIV testing, discussions and memorial services. 

Along with a calendar of events and a call for heightened awareness concerning AIDS, and the need to stay committed to prevention and treatment, the Minnesota Department of Health issued the state’s HIV/AIDS report card.

“In Minnesota, the number of new HIV cases increased by 13 percent in 2009, marking a 17-year high with 370 HIV cases reported,” said Peter Carr, director of the Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV Section, of the MDH.

“The increase was driven primarily by a large increase among males 15 to 24 years of age – matching the trend seen at the national level,” he said.

Also according to the MDH news release:

“Since 1982, 9,163 people in Minnesota have been diagnosed with HIV infection, and 3,056 of them have died. Currently, an estimated 6,552 people are reported to be living with HIV/AIDS in Minnesota, including those who moved to Minnesota after they were diagnosed in other states. The state has averaged over 300 HIV infections annually over the past decade.

“The most recent data in Minnesota show men and women of color and men who have sex with men continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. About 48 percent of all new cases reported in 2009 were among persons of color. Statewide rates for African Americans and Latinos are about 11 and 6 times greater, respectively, than whites. Rates for African-born individuals are 19 to 26 times greater than for whites. Cases among men who have sex with men accounted for 56 percent of all new HIV infections reported in 2009.”

HIV infection remains highly preventable, Carr stressed.

Among events are these:

* The 4th Annual Silence Equals Suicide: A Spoken Word Hip Hop Showcase will be presented from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 4 at Pillsbury House Theater, 3501 Chicago Ave. South, in Minneapolis.

Why hip hop?

“Using hip hop as a tool to enforce the message of prevention and to enforce the message of knowing your status is extremely powerful,” explained Earnest Simpkins, a health education outreach worker at Pillsbury House in Minneapolis, sponsor with Brother Circle of Minneapolis.

You’ll hear slam poetry as well at the pay-what-you-can event. Performers include Heidi Barton Stink, All Out Records; Kevin “Kaoz” Moore from Pillsbury House and Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria.  

* La Clinica of West Side Community Health Services will offer free HIV testing and education for walk-ins Dec. 1 until 4 p.m. at 153 Cesar Chavez St. in St. Paul. The staff speaks English and Spanish.

* The Sarah Simmons Showcase offers an open mike forum to discuss HIV disparities among African and African-American women from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Capri Theatre, 2027 W. Broadway in Minneapolis.

For details and other opportunities to learn more about HIV/AIDS, check the web calendar here.

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