By NewsDesk  @bactiman63

Multnomah County health officials are reporting an increase in HIV infections, after seeing declining numbers for a number of years.

Oregon map
Image/ National Atlas of the United States

In the last 18 months, 42 new cases of HIV among people who report drug use as a risk have been identified in Multnomah County. Nearly half of the newly diagnosed cases had tested negative for HIV test in the past two years, suggesting these are new infections. By contrast, only 25 cases reported in 2016 and 2017 combined had injection drug use as a risk factor for HIV infection.

The recent cases are from all parts of Multnomah County and include women and men, both heterosexual and men who have sex with men. The most common risk factor so far is drug use: using methamphetamine in any form or injecting any type of drug.

“We don’t know yet if this is a short-term increase or longer-term trend,” said Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County Deputy Health Officer, “the hope is that more testing will link people to the care they need and stop the spread to others.”

Health Department officials urge people who may have been exposed through sharing needles or sex with high-risk partners to get an HIV test. Multnomah County Health Department will connect anyone who tests positive for HIV to effective treatment and other support services. Outreach staff also help find and test others who may have been exposed to HIV. Someone at risk who tests negative can get medicine to protect them from HIV infection.

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The same factors that put people at risk for getting HIV are also contributing to a local increase in syphilis, and raising concern that our County could be vulnerable to a Hepatitis A outbreak. Many of the individuals newly found to have HIV are experiencing homelessness or have reported unstable housing, which plays a major role in people’s ability to get preventive care and prioritize their health.