Minnesota: STDs, hepatitis C infections rise; HIV cases stable but disparities persist

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Department of Health’s (MDH) reported last week that cases of sexually transmitted diseases increased in 2017. HIV cases remained stable, but there are disparities when it comes to communities of cover and men who have sex with men.

MDH’s new report shows a 10 percent increase in new syphilis cases and a 28 percent increase in new gonorrhea cases. The number of new chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis cases combined in Minnesota increased by 8 percent in 2017 compared to 2016. HIV cases remained relatively stable, but disparities remain among communities of color and men who have sex with men. Hepatitis C cases increased by 15 percent in 2017 compared to 2016, and half of the new cases reported injection drug use.

“Communities of color, men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs continue to have higher rates of STDs, HIV and hepatitis C,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm in a press release. “This latest information underscores the importance of continuing our focus on advancing health equity and building partnerships with communities to ensure that all Minnesotans have access to prevention, testing and treatment services.”

Key findings

There were 30,981 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis reported in Minnesota in 2017 compared to 28,631 cases in 2016.

  • Chlamydia, the No. 1 reported infectious disease in the state, reached a new high of 23,528 cases in 2017, a 4 percent increase from the 22,675 cases reported in 2016.
    • Sixty-two percent of chlamydia cases occurred in teens and young adults between ages 15 and 24.
    • One of every 3 cases occurred in Greater Minnesota, with at least two cases reported in every county.
  • Gonorrhea remained the second most commonly reported STD in Minnesota with 6,519 cases reported in 2017, a 28 percent increase from the 5,104 cases reported in 2016.
    • Forty-five percent of gonorrhea cases occurred among 15 to 24-year-olds, and 78 percent of cases occurred in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
  • Syphilis cases increased 10 percent with 934 cases in 2017 compared to 852 in 2016.
    • New infections continued to be centered within the Twin Cities metropolitan area and among males, particularly among men who have sex with men.
    • The presence of syphilis among females, especially those who are pregnant or of child-bearing age, continues to be of concern.
    • The number of cases with the most infectious stages of syphilis (primary and secondary) decreased overall by 5 percent, but increased in Greater Minnesota by 18 percent.
  • HIV cases remained stable with 284 cases reported in 2017, compared to 290 cases in 2016. The state averaged around 300 cases per year for the last five years.
    • Males accounted for 74 percent of all new HIV cases during 2017.
      • Male-to-male sex remained the main risk factor for males of all ages, making up 66 percent of new infections among male cases.
    • Sixty-six percent of new HIV cases were among communities of color.
  • The number of resolved hepatitis C cases reached a new high in 2017 at 2,982 newly resolved infections. This is more than double the resolved infections in 2016 (1,421).
  • Acute hepatitis C cases reached a new high at 59 cases in 2017 compared to 51 in 2016.
    • Twenty-nine cases reported injection drug use.
    • Infections in young people remained high with 24 percent of newly reported chronic infections occurring in people under 30.

“A lot of people assume they only need to get tested if they have symptoms,” said Krissie Guerard, manager of the STD, HIV and TB section at MDH. “The truth is that STDs, HIV and hepatitis C often have no symptoms. We urge people who are sexually active and people who inject drugs to get tested at least yearly for STDs, HIV and hepatitis C to protect their health and the health of their partners.”