HIV and Syphilis Outbreak Reported In Milwaukee Public Schools
By Ryan Velez
At least 125 people have tested positive for HIV, Syphilis or both in the latest outbreak of the two diseases, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Milwaukee public health officials.
According to their report, 10% of those infected are students in the Milwaukee Public School System, with the young adults having contracted one or both diseases. The report says at least 45% of the infected are male.
Milwaukee Public Schools is liaising with the health department to find a quick and fitting way to address the issue. In a statement, the school system said in part, “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 preventive effort, to share information with young people in middle schools and high schools to keep them healthy and to protect their health.”
In December last year and January this year, the then Health Commissioner Bevan Baker told Mayor Tom Barrett about the alarming cluster. However, Barrett didn’t take any action as he resigned a week later due to a controversy surrounding prevention programs that were aimed at tackling Milwaukee’s lead poisoning. Around the time, more people were visiting health centers and reporting symptoms associated with HIV and Syphilis.
The health department even told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about three babies who had been born with syphilis in 2018, with the births being linked to the cluster. Health officials are worried that there could be more people who’re infected, but who shy away from opening up because of stigmatization. Reports say some of those infected may have had sex with the same partners at different times.
There is a serious concern about the cluster, especially because many young people of the Milwaukee area have now tested HIV positive.
Statistics about Milwaukee aren’t good. According to the Milwaukee Health Department, the city topped the country in gonorrhea infection rates; chlamydia was fourth and is ranked among the worst places for young men of color under the age of 25 when it comes to HIV infections. Young people aged between 15 and 24 constitute 37.4% of the total HIV cases in the city, while those aged between 20 and 29 accounted for 57.1% of all the syphilis cases.
Authorities are already working on ways to get things under control.