Why Are HIV Rates Increasing in Some Rural Communities?

HIV trend up

Across the country, there’s been a lot of good news in the fight to stop HIV. Treatment as prevention methods, like PrEP, have helped to stall the spread of infection, and greater education and community outreach has aided in the reduction of cases. There have also been impressive advances in the way HIV symptoms are managed and treated, allowing for better quality of life for HIV-positive people.

However, we have a long journey ahead of us before a cure is found or the disease is eradicated – and in some pockets of the country, HIV infection is actually on the rise.

HIV Isn’t History Yet

Globally, the HIV epidemic peaked in 1997. Since then, the number of new infections has fallen 40%, and AIDS-related deaths in the US have dropped more than 70%. However, that doesn’t mean that numbers are on the decline everywhere, as a recent outbreak in rural Indiana has shown. According to AIDS Map, a total of 220 counties in 26 states have been identified as potentially “highly vulnerable” to a major HIV outbreak.

Reasons for Rising Numbers of Infection

The primary mode of transmission for HIV in these rural at-risk areas is drug use. Recreational opioid use is on the rise, especially in low-income and rural communities, and sharing needles and reckless sexual behavior while under the influence can both contribute greatly to the spread of HIV. Hepatitis, which can also be spread through sharing needles, is on the rise in these areas as well.

Right now, New Mexico has not seen the same increase in HIV rates – but it would not be wise to ignore this trend. Although people are getting better about practicing safe sex, discussions surrounding drug use are not as open and free of judgment.

If you are a drug user, it’s important to protect your safety and the safety of those around you by properly disposing of needles and not reusing or sharing them. It’s also important to seek help for drug addiction and substance abuse; we offer counseling and assistance programs that can help!