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Health officials confirm Milwaukee STD cluster

Posted at 12:00 PM, Mar 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-09 12:00:55-05

MILWAUKEE, WI (WITI/CNN) - The AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin confirms recent reports of an HIV and STD "cluster." 

It's believed at least 125 people have contracted HIV and syphilis, and they're connected in some way. 

"HIV and STDs are a serious public health threat," said Michael Gifford, president of the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, the city's largest provider of HIV treatment.

He said Milwaukee already accounts for more than half of the state's HIV cases.

"Milwaukee, unfortunately, has one of the highest STD rate of any city in America," Gifford said.

He said a "cluster" refers to people who are connected through transmitting the disease.

"One hundred and twenty-five people have been identified as being part of this cluster," Gifford said. "That number is likely to go up as additional review happens with this situation."

Gifford said the cluster includes students at Milwaukee Public Schools.

"What we know, for many years, now is the HIV epidemic has been disproportionately affecting young people," he said.

A schools spokesman said in a statement, "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."

"We now have medications people can take, HIV negative people can take to prevent themselves from contracting HIV also, it's call PrEP," Gifford said.

Gifford said the entire city should take notice to what he considers an outbreak.

"We can't let this cluster fool us," he said. "HIV and STD rates are high throughout the community and throughout the region."

Gifford said his center in downtown Milwaukee offers free and anonymous HIV testing and free syphilis treatment.

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