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Spotlight on Preventing HIV/AIDS This Month

Missouri has about 500 new cases of HIV diagnosed each year. Most are men, and about half are in communities of color. (CDC)
Missouri has about 500 new cases of HIV diagnosed each year. Most are men, and about half are in communities of color. (CDC)
May 18, 2016

ST. LOUIS - Missouri continues to be in the top half of state rankings for new cases of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.

Around 500 new cases of HIV infection are diagnosed in the state each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Testing is offered at Planned Parenthood clinics across Missouri, but Mary Kogut, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said that what they really focus on is education and prevention.

"Individual conversations with each of our patients, and talk about what's their own personal risk," she said. "What are behaviors that they're participating in that might be putting them at higher risk for getting an infection? And this could be chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, HIV. It could be any number of infections."

Kogut said sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, are most prevalent in urban areas, particularly St. Louis. Groups at greatest risk in Missouri are men and women of color, and people younger than age 25.

Kogut said the numbers can come down, but it's going to take a community effort. She said schools need to consider offering a more comprehensive sex education program for young people, because school is where they spend most of their time.

"This could have a tremendous impact on helping youth learn a lot about transmission of STDs, to prevent it early in their life," she said, "and that could help them be protected and safe."

There were 44,000 new HIV cases diagnosed in the United States in 2014. In Missouri, 83 percent of those living with the disease are men, and about half are people of color.

Thursday is National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. It's also Hepatitis Testing Day.

State data is online at health.mo.gov. CDC data is at cdc.gov.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MO