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Published February 21, 2010, 08:58 PM

HIV/AIDS Cases Up in North Dakota

It's an epidemic that some say is totally preventable, but it's spreading. The number of new HIV/AIDS cases in North Dakota set a record last year.

By: Renee Chmiel, WDAZ

It's an epidemic that some say is totally preventable, but it's spreading. The number of new HIV/AIDS cases in North Dakota set a record last year. The state Health Department says there were 39 new cases in North Dakota last year, up from 28 new cases in 2008 and 26 in 2007. Even though we're still talking about small numbers of people, experts say you should be careful.

It's a record no one ever wants to set-the most new cases of HIV/AIDS for a particular year. Although this may sound startling, Greater Grand Forks Awareness Network President David Whitcomb says it's not necessarily a cause for alarm at this point.

David Whitcomb: "We're talking about very small numbers in the state that has the least number of HIV and AIDS cases in the whole country."

Jane Croeker/UND Student Health Promotion Advisor: "There tends to be the idea that it can't happen in North Dakota and as the increase in cases shows, it can happen."

The state Health Department says of the 39 new cases, 16 were diagnosed in-state, while the other 23 cases were people with the disease who moved to North Dakota.

Jane Croeker: "The saddest part of it is that HIV is completely preventable."

Some racial minorities and people who share needles are at a greater risk, but you can protect yourself from the disease. Experts say practicing safe sex and being aware of the danger can go a long way in keeping yourself safe. Whitcomb says there are misconceptions about AIDS. It can spread through sexual contact or sharing needles. Yet it can't spread through sharing a toilet seat or one of these.

David Whitcomb: "The flu has been a bigger issue than HIV this past year, but I don't think we should minimize the problem."

There have been 480 reported cases of HIV/AIDS in North Dakota, from 1984 through 2009. 145 people have died of the disease.

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