A record 136 Iowans were diagnosed with HIV in 2016. The Iowa Department of Public Health says this is probably not due to an increased rate in transmissions, but rather likely an outcome of additional funding and social media efforts to encourage Iowans to get tested.
The department admits it doesn’t know how many Iowans were tested for HIV last year. But data shows a larger percentage of people diagnosed were in an early stage of the disease, meaning more HIV-positive individuals aren’t waiting until they became sick to find out if they’ve contracted the virus.
"In 2013, 46 percent of people who were diagnosed with HIV were late testers, which means that they were diagnosed with AIDS within about three months of their initial HIV diagnoses," says IDPH’s Nicole Kolm-Valdivia. "In 2016...about 24 percent total of people who were diagnosed were late."
Kolm-Valdivia says the earlier a person finds out they have HIV the better their prognosis, due to medical advancements in virus suppression.
"HIV now is treated much more like a chronic disease," she says. "When we look at quality of life and expected life outcome, it’s much more similar to people who aren’t living with HIV, and so it’s important for people to get into care quickly."
IDPH estimates roughly 400 Iowans don’t know they're HIV positive.