Monday, December 23, 2013

AIDS cases could rise in Kentucky due to shared needles, complacency

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — Experts who watch HIV and AIDS cases in Kentucky say the rate of infection may see a rise thanks to the complacency of a younger generation and the increase of heroin abuse in the state.
In spite of ongoing education and prevention efforts, the rate of infection in the state has remained constant over the past decade in Kentucky.
But now it seems to be on the rise, according to Mark Royse, executive director of AVOL which serves clients with HIV and AIDS in 72 Kentucky counties.
"With people now, the consciousness of HIV and AIDS is of poor little orphans in another country," Royse told the Lexington Herald-leader (http://bit.ly/1c2VP8T). "They think people aren't dealing with this at home."
Since the introduction of antiretroviral drugs in the late 1990s, the ability to manage HIV and AIDS has increased, and the urgency to avoid infection has waned, Royse said.
Although the numbers haven't been officially tabulated, health department officials are seeing more and more young people contract HIV, said John Moses, HIV and AIDS outreach specialist for the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department. Part of that surge is from the use of shared needles as heroin use in Kentucky is on the rise, he said.
"We are just sort of biting our nails on that one," said Royse, adding that the official epidemiological data on new infection rates is about 3 years old, but "our gut is that it is on the rise."
A 57 percent increase in heroin-related arrests prompted Lexington Mayor Jim Gray to form a task force during the summer to look into how to stem the problem.
Royse said there was a sizable number of people who do not know they have been infected because they haven't been tested.
"We have a whole lot of people who have been left behind," he said, "and they are the most vulnerable people in Kentucky."
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