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HIV outbreak affects more than 100 people in Milwaukee

HIV outbreak affects more than 100 people in Milwaukee

Hospital room

An outbreak of HIV and syphilis has affected more than 125 people, including high school students, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

It’s one of the largest sexually transmitted infection clusters in the city’s history. Health care officials confirmed the news to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

A cluster is defined as a development of a disease in a closely grouped time and place. Most of the people infected are men, with 45% of them being HIV positive. Public school students make up less than 10% of the people who tested positive. However, officials warn this number could increase.

‘This is an epidemic people are not talking about enough, and it leads to people taking unnecessary risks,’ said Melissa Ugland, a public health consultant who works with nonprofits.

Officials are still trying to track down people. Ugland believes the number of cases, therefore, will likely increase.

Fear and stigma

Health officials first became aware of a possible cluster in mid-December.

A volunteer, Gary Hollander, warned that many people do not come forward with symptoms out of fear and possible stigma.

Fortunately, both of these diseases are treatable. Both pose more risks if they go untreated, but penicillin can help with syphilis. As for HIV, more medications like PrEP are becoming the norm.

However, Ugland said that it’s still a ‘really big deal’, especially with it affecting younger people.

Milwaukee Public Schools officials released a statement about the outbreak:

‘Because schools have a significant number of students in the 15-18 age group, we are working with the Milwaukee Health Department, in a collaborative and preventive effort, to share information with young people in middle schools and high schools to keep them healthy and to protect their health.’

The Human Rights Campaign manager of Wisconsin, Wendy Strout, called the numbers ‘alarming and disturbing’.

‘The failure to fund critical prevention programs leads to outbreaks like this.’

To live in an AIDS-free nation, Strout put the pressure on officials, saying they need to treat such an outbreak like an emergency and fight for health education.