Increase in drug use HIV infections

XENIA — The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is observing an increase in newly diagnosed HIV infections being reported among persons who inject drugs (PWID). While HIV remains predominantly a sexually transmitted infection, the proportion of cases reporting injection drug use (IDU) as the mode of transmission increased from seven percent of cases in 2015 to 13 percent in 2017. Preliminary 2018 data demonstrates this trend is continuing.

There is cause for concern due to the current opioid epidemic, unrecognized drug use in individuals, the rate of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections, unsafe needle -sharing practices, and the introduction of fentanyl (both pharmaceutical and illicit synthetic) into the local drug supply. The latter of which often leads to more frequent injection. PWIDs may be unfamiliar with their increased risk for acquisition and transmission of HIV and HCV infections though unsafe needle and equipment sharing practices.

Greene County only gets one to two cases of HIV associated with injection drug use each year, however, according to ODH, there is a cluster of HIV cases in Hamilton County related to injection drug use. Greene County Public Health officials wish to remind residents about SafeTrade, a needle-exchange program, as well as the availability of confidential, free, rapid HIV tests. Walk-in HIV testing is available 1-3 p.m. Nov. 15, Dec. 6 and Dec. 20 at the office of Greene County Public Health located at 360 Wilson Drive in Xenia. Testing is the only way to know for sure if someone has been infected with the HIV virus.

For additional information on the SafeTrade program or HIV testing, please contact Jessica Warner at 937-374-5621.