Minnesota looks back on three decades of HIV care

Thousands of Minnesotans living with HIV receive federally funded health care, medication and services such as dental and mental health […]

30th anniversary

Thousands of Minnesotans living with HIV receive federally funded health care, medication and services such as dental and mental health care, thanks to a landmark law signed 30 years ago in August. 

The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act serves as the cornerstone of HIV care in the United States, helping hundreds of thousands of Americans living with the human immunodeficiency virus since 1990. The anniversary of the law’s signing was August 18. 

More than 4,700 Minnesotans receive Ryan White services today, about half the people living with HIV in the state. 

“The Ryan White CARE Act has saved so many lives and improved living for so many people who otherwise might have been lost,” said Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Jodi Harpstead. “It’s easy to forget how desperate the situation was in the late 1980s, and how little hope there was for people living with HIV, their families, and those at risk.” 

Thirty years ago, HIV and AIDS were seen as a death sentences, with the country mired in an epidemic that would eventually kill 700,000 Americans. Misinformation was rampant, services scarce, and discrimination common. 

Today, Minnesota has a comprehensive system of high-quality care for people living with HIV. DHS and Hennepin County have a strong collaborative partnership, supplemented by the community planning activities of the Minnesota Council for HIV/AIDS Care and Prevention. Hennepin County receives federal funding to support medical services and more for the 13-county Twin Cities area, where 85 percent of the Minnesotans living with HIV reside. 

“Our Ryan White program provides critical services to help eliminate HIV-related health disparities, help residents sustain good health, and prevent new HIV infections at the center of Minnesota’s epidemic,” Hennepin County Public Health Director Susan Palchick said. 

Looking ahead, a focus for Ryan White is undetectable = untransmittable (U=U), an international campaign promoting universal access to HIV treatment so people can achieve viral suppression. Once virally suppressed, they are unable to transmit HIV to sexual partners. In 2018, 87 percent of people receiving Ryan White services achieved viral suppression. 

U=U is a foundation of Minnesota’s END HIV MN plan and Hennepin County’s HIV elimination plan Positively Hennepin. 

Last year, 275 Minnesotans were diagnosed with HIV. At the end of 2019, 9,183 people were living with HIV/AIDS infection in the state. 

(Source: Minnesota Department of Human Services) 

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