Northern Kentucky sees a significant increase in HIV cases in 2017

01/09/2018 12:47 PM

EDGEWOOD – The Northern Kentucky region has seen a spike in HIV infection among individuals who inject drugs, and officials in the health department are trying to do more to combat the problem.

Representatives of the Northern Kentucky Health Department and the Kentucky Department for Public Health announced on Tuesday that they have initiated a cluster investigation of HIV infections among people who inject drugs in northern Kentucky.

HIV case monitoring showed that the total number of cases has increased with 37 new cases of HIV reported to public health officials in 2017, compared to 25 in 2016 and 34 cases in 2015.

In 2017, a total of 18 people reported injection drug use among their risk factors, compared to only five reports of this risk factor in 2016.

Dr. Jonathan Ballard, State Public Health Epidemiologist for the Kentucky Department of Public Heath, says that two counties in particular, have seen a significant increase in 2017 from past years.

“Campbell County and Kenton County have experienced the greatest increases of HIV diagnoses in injection drug use, with eight cases and ten cases respectively in 2017,” Ballard said. “In the past nine years, Campbell County never had more than one case per year in injection drug use as a risk factor. Kenton County has never had any more than two cases per year in injection drug use.”

Epidemiologists and disease intervention specialists with the Northern Kentucky Health Department and the Kentucky Department for Public Health are collaborating to better understand the cases of new HIV reported in 2017.

“This cluster investigation will include assisting the Northern Kentucky Health Department with expanded cases questionnaires and additional HIV testing as well as testing for Hepatitis C and molecular linkage testing to determine if these cases of HIV are linked between each other,” Ballard said. “This work will help us understand what needs to be done to further prevent the spread of HIV, and what these changes as we examine the broader picture of Kentucky’s health.”

Education and additional resources is another key component of the battle with the HIV infection.

Stephanie Vogel, Director of Population Health, with the Northern Kentucky Health Department says that it all begins with testing for people who are at-risk.

“Testing is currently available through local health care providers, at the health departments county health centers, and at special walk-in testing events in the community,” Vogel said.

St. Elizabeth Hospital and the Northern Kentucky Health Department have advocated for more syringe access exchange programs in the region other then the ones in Grant and Pendleton counties. Currently there are none in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties.

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