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In Milwaukee, HIV/STI Cluster Has Health Officials Worried

After the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on a cluster of more than 125 people, including teenagers, some of whom recently contracted HIV and/or syphilis, the City of Milwaukee Health Department and community organizations held a joint press conference on the issue.

Milwaukee, like the rest of the U.S., is reporting epidemic levels of sexually transmitted infections. This “cluster,” however, was identified as such in December, when it was determined that the people in it were all connected and were in contact with one another over a one-year period. In the social network of 127 individuals, 76 were found to be positive for syphilis, HIV, or both. Additional concerns were raised regarding three cases of congenital syphilis, when a mother with syphilis passes the infection on to her baby during pregnancy, reported in 2017. No cases of congenital syphilis had occurred since 2012.

This emerging crisis is a wake-up call for us all. The National Coalition of STD Directors called Milwaukee’s cluster “a symptom of under-resourced STD programs,” and the evidence is in across the country: beleaguered health departments have been forced to cut clinic hours, reduce routine screenings, and provide fewer partner services.

Since 2003, STD prevention funding at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has seen a $21 million reduction. During that time, cases of syphilis increased 230% and cases of chlamydia 75%. Each year, twenty million new cases of STDs occur, which cost our health care system $16 billion dollars.

Learn more about the HIV epidemic and HIV prevention and treatment by downloading What Do I Do? A Handbook to Understanding Health & HIV, a free resource by AIDS United and Human Rights Campaign.  

Posted By: AIDS United, Policy Department - Friday, March 16, 2018

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