125 people part of large HIV/syphilis cluster in Milwaukee

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The AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin has confirmed recent reports of an HIV and STD cluster in Milwaukee. It is believed at least 125 people have contracted HIV and syphilis, and they’re connected in some way.

Officials with the AIDS Resource Center (ARCW) said a group, or “cluster” of people has been discovered either living with HIV or other STDs, and some are children.

“Certainly this is an HIV and syphilis cluster,” said Michael Gifford, president of ARCW.

Gifford said Milwaukee already accounts for more than half of the state’s HIV cases.

“Milwaukee unfortunately has one of the highest STD rates of any city in America,” said Gifford.

The ARCW is the largest provider of HIV treatment in Milwaukee, and Gifford said a “cluster” refers to people who are connected through transmitting it.

“125 people have been identified as being part of this cluster. That number is likely to go up as additional review happens with this situation,” said Gifford.

Gifford said the cluster includes students at Milwaukee Public Schools.

“What we know for many years now is the HIV epidemic has been disproportionately affecting young people,” said Gifford.

In a statement to FOX6, an MPS spokesman said:

“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.”

“We now have medications people can take, HIV negative people can take to prevent themselves from contracting HIV also. It’s call PrEP,” said Gifford.

Gifford said the entire city should take notice of what he considers an outbreak.

“We can’t let this cluster fool us. HIV and STDs are high throughout the community and throughout the region,” said Gifford.

Gifford said the ARCW in downtown Milwaukee offers free and anonymous HIV testing and free syphilis treatment.

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