By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

City and state health officials are reporting an increase in HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) cases in Louisville, prompting increased screenings and prevention measures as well as urging local healthcare providers to conduct more HIV testing as a routine part of medical care.

Louisville map
Image/ U.S. federal government

In Louisville, there have been 126 HIV diagnoses for 2021 to date. 24 of those were diagnosed in May alone, the most recent month for which data is available.  The average number of cases per calendar year is 144 from 2017 – 2020.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health has a dedicated staff of disease investigators embedded in the Louisville Department of Public Health and Wellness to work with individuals confidentially to track and test their sexual contacts if they have tested positive for HIV. They also work to ensure anyone who tests positive gets connected to medical treatment.

“We urge all sexually active individuals to get tested for HIV and request that physicians include HIV screening as a part of regular care,” said Dr. SarahBeth Hartlage, associate medical director for the Department of Public Health and Wellness. “If anyone tests positive for HIV their sexual partners should also be tested for it. We can do that confidentially and we can also make sure people get connected to treatment so they can continue to lead long, productive lives.”

“We’ve come so far since HIV was first discovered 40 years ago,” added Dr. Hartlage.  “Thanks to advancements in research and medicine, with testing, early intervention, access to proper medical treatment and prevention, individuals with HIV can live long healthy lives.”

HIV is transmitted through blood, semen, vaginal secretions or breast milk. It is a virus that attacks a person’s immune system. If it isn’t treated, it can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). There isn’t a cure currently for HIV but with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. People who get proper treatment live long healthy lives and protect their partners.

A person’s risk of being exposed to or contracting HIV increases when:

  • They don’t know their status or the status of their partners
  • They have unprotected sex
  • They have unprotected sex with multiple partners
  • They share drug injection supplies
  • They use stimulants such as methamphetamine or cocaine which increase sexual desire
  • They have underlying sexually transmitted infections such as herpes, syphilis or gonorrhea.

HIV can be prevented by:

  • Getting tested regularly to know your status. Free, anonymous HIV testing is offered by the Department of Public Health and Wellness through its Syringe Services Program and by appointment by calling 502-574-5600. Walk ins are also welcome. People can also ask their healthcare provider to test them during their annual physical. It is a good idea to get tested regularly, even if you think your risk is low.
  • Practicing safer sex by properly using condoms and lubricants. The Department of Public Health and Wellness and several community partners provide free condoms at numerous locations throughout the city.
  • Never sharing needles, syringes or other drug injection equipment. The Department of Public Health and Wellness and the University of Kentucky provide free HIV testing, harm reduction services and supplies through their Syringe Services Program at eight locations.
  • Healthcare providers conducting regular sexual history screenings with their patients.