KENTON COUNTY, KY (FOX19/AP) - An increase in the number of HIV infections among drug users has prompted health officials in Kentucky to investigate the occurrence.
The Northern Kentucky Health Department said Tuesday that the number of intravenous drug users who tested positive for HIV last year more than tripled from the previous year, jumping from five to 18. The total number of HIV cases also increased, from 25 cases to 37.
District Health Director Lynne M. Saddler said the numbers are concerning because they may indicate more widespread HIV infections in the area.
Health officials say new HIV infections are concentrated in Campbell and Kenton counties - which are ranked among the top five counties for opiate overdose deaths, according to a 2015 report from the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy.
State and local health officials are recommending measures to limit further transmission and will investigate whether the current cases are linked, whether others are at risk and whether additional actions are necessary.
Needle exchange programs could help curb HIV cases and are an economical investment, health officials said.
Experts estimate that for every one dollar invested in syringe access programs, communities can save three to seven dollars on HIV treatment in the future, according to Garren Colvin with St. Elizabeth Healthcare.