Massive HIV, STD cluster in Milwaukee includes children

Massive HIV, STD cluster in Milwaukee includes children
Posted at 2:22 PM, Mar 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-10 10:16:02-05

MILWAUKEE (WITI/CNN) – The AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin confirmed recent reports of an HIV and STD “cluster” in Milwaukee.

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

"Certainly, this is an HIV and syphilis cluster," said Michael Gifford, president of the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin. "HIV and STDs are a serious public health threat."

Gifford said Milwaukee already accounts for more than half of the state’s HIV cases.

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

The center is the largest provider of HIV treatment in Milwaukee, and Gifford said a “cluster” refers to people who are connected through transmitting the disease.

"125 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 in the Milwaukee Public Schools district.

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

A Milwaukee Public Schools spokesman said in a statement: “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.”

Gifford suggested one precaution people can take to avoid contracting HIV.

"We now have medications people can take – HIV-negative people can take – to prevent themselves from contracting HIV, also: It's called PREP," Gifford said.

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

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

Gifford also said the AIDS Resource Center located in downtown Milwaukee offers free and anonymous HIV testing and free syphilis treatment.

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