HIV and AIDS cases are on the rise in Kentucky; officials blame lack of education and increase of heroin use

Despite readily available information and awareness about practicing safe sex, and avoiding sharing needles, HIV and AIDS cases are on the rise in Kentucky. And the reason, say officials, is ignorance and an increase in heroin use, Mary Meehan reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Mark Royse, executive director of AVOL, which serves clients with HIV and AIDS in 72 Kentucky counties, said “his nonprofit routinely offers support services, including housing assistance, to about 400 families affected by HIV and AIDS.”

Lauren Kirk, HIV and AIDS outreach specialist for the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, “said a lot of the people they see are young and were born after the AIDS epidemic was at its lethal peak,” Meehan writes. Another specialist, John Moses, told hr that the health department is seeing more young people
with HIV. Part of that surge, he said, is from the use
of shared needles as heroin use in Kentucky is on the rise.” Heroin drug deaths in Kentucky increased by 550 percent in 2012, John Cheves reports for the Herald-Leader.

Another problem is that many people refuse to get tested, because discussion of HIV and AIDS includes talk of sexuality, homosexuality and
drug abuse, Meehan writes. Royse told her, “It is a perfect storm of things we don’t like to talk
about.” Royse said “a ‘silence-is-better’ policy is especially prevalent among
Latinos and blacks, who account for the majority of new infections in
Kentucky. He’s concerned that if people stop talking about HIV and AIDS and become complacent, the infection will continue to spread.” (Read more)

The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, in its annual report from June, 2012, said 8,513 Kentuckians are diagnosed with HIV, with 7031 men and 1,482 women. Most of the cases are in urban areas, with 3,849 in Jefferson County and 1,099 in Fayette County. Of those cases, 4544 are classified as from men having sex with men (MSM), 917 as injection drug users (IDU) and 425 as people who reported to having engaged in both MSM and IDU.

The overall total of HIV and AIDS cases includes 21 boys under 13 years old, 107 between ages 13-19, and 1,269 between ages 20-29. For women, it includes 13 girls under 13 years old, 39 between ages 13-19, and 203 between ages 20-29. (Cabinet graphic: Newly diagnosed HIV cases in 2010 for Kentuckians ages 20-29 years old accounted for 32 percent of all new cases, even though that age group only makes up 13 percent of the total population)

Kentucky ranks 25th in HIV infections. In 2010, the state had 85 new HIV cases for people ages 13-24, accounting for 25 percent of all new cases in the state, which is higher than the national average for that age group of 21 percent. The average age of Kentuckians diagnosed with HIV went down from 37.1 years of age in 2006 to 35 years of age in 2010. To read the full report click here.

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