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Outbreak Of Syphilis And HIV In Milwaukee Affecting Babies, Teens

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The Milwaukee Health Department confirms an increase in new cases of HIV and syphilis in 2017. Among those infected are teenage children and infants.

In a period of 12 months, a total of 125 new cases of HIV and syphilis were recorded in the city that has a population of almost 600,000.

Alarming Incidence Of Infections

"This is an epidemic people are not talking about enough, and it leads to people taking unnecessary risks," says Melissa Ugland, a public health consultant working local nonprofit organizations focusing on public health.

The city health department informed the district of the alarming increase in sexually transmitted infections among young people aged 15 to 24. The high rate of infection is categorized as a cluster outbreak or a group or cluster of people discovered either living with HIV or other STDs by the AIDS Resource Center.

"Certainly, this is an HIV and syphilis cluster," says Michael Gifford, president of ARCW.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention's guideline for investigating clusters of health events, the term "cluster" is an unusual aggregation, real or perceived, of health events that are grouped together in time and space and that are reported to a health agency.

Ugland said the cluster infection is still ongoing and the number could increase further.

Teens And Babies

Majority of those who got tested were men, and 45 percent of them were declared HIV positive. Local authorities withheld information on what school or schools are affected by the cluster infection.

However, the Milwaukee Public Schools stated that they are coordinating with the local health department to prevent the cases from increasing.

"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 preventative effort to share information with young people in middle schools and high schools to keep them healthy and protect their health," reads a statement from MPS.

The health department confirmed that at least three local babies were born with syphilis.

The confirmation of rising STI cases is followed by a commuter ad campaign with the Milwaukee City Transport Service. The campaign aims to raise awareness about sexually transmitted diseases.

Syphilis And HIV

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause serious health problems if left untreated. Symptoms of the disease include sores around the genitalia, skin rashes, and swollen lymph nodes.

Syphilis has three stages: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary. Different signs and symptoms are associated with each stage.

Primary and secondary syphilis have mild and unnoticeable symptoms. The latent stage has no signs or symptoms. Tertiary syphilis is associated with medical problems and can affect the heart, brain, and other organs of the body.

In 2016, the United States almost has 28,000 cases of primary and secondary syphilis, the most infectious stages of the disease.

The Human immunodeficiency virus or HIV is an infection that attacks the immune system. If left untreated, HIV can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS. HIV can make a person more susceptible to other infections.

Based on CDA data, annual infections and diagnoses have increased among some groups. The rate of infection among gay and bisexual men is at a high 70 percent while infection among heterosexual registered at 23 percent.

In 2015, the number of people diagnosed with HIV in Milwaukee is 2,974, a majority of which are men. The highest transmission category was through male-to-male sexual contact at 68 percent of the total infections. In 2016, Wisconsin documented almost 7,000 people living with HIV.

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