HIV cases on the rise in Jefferson County

Cases are increasing from one or two a month to one or two a week in Louisville, according to the chief of immunology for Norton Healthcare.
Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 4:28 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 8, 2021 at 6:54 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The number of HIV cases in Jefferson County is growing rapidly, according to experts at the Louisville Metro Board of Health’s monthly meeting on Tuesday.

HIV cases are increasing from one or two a month to one or two a week, according to board member Dr. Karen Cost, the chief of immunology for Norton Healthcare. Although increased testing may be driving the trend, Cost said it is still alarming.

Dr. Paul Schulz, a system epidemiologist with Norton Healthcare told WAVE 3 News its recommended all U.S. adult get tested for HIV. However, a year ago the healthcare system noticed most people weren’t, especially those who are most at risk.

In 2020, the healthcare system started testing every adult patient who visited the emergency department, unless they opted out. Since then, it’s tested 44,707 people and has found 139 positive HIV cases. The number of new positive cases average to 11 to 12 per month, according to Norton data.

In June 2021, there were 19 positive cases discovered at Norton Healthcare alone.

Many people who test positive don’t know they are infected and are more likely to spread the virus, according to Schulz. He said the main way to contain spread and catch HIV before it becomes life-threatening is to continue getting tested.

“If you know you’re at risk get tested,” Schulz said. “If you’re not sure, ask, because getting tested can change everything. If you’re positive, you can get on treatment and stay healthy and not transmit to other people. If you’re at risk and negative, we can keep you negative using PrEP and other things, and keep you healthy and of course no transmissions,” he added. “The important message I think is to find out if you’re at risk and get tested.”

Despite tracking the rising number of HIV cases, Dr. Sarah Beth Hartlage with UofL said she and her colleagues haven’t yet been able to identify what’s causing the spread.

For more information on the Louisville Metro Board of Health, click here.

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