HIV Cluster Concerns Northern Kentucky Health Officials

Jan 9, 2018

In addition to syringes, needle exchange programs often provide other basic health supplies and referral to drug treatment.
Credit Mary Meehan

Health officials in Northern Kentucky are concerned about a “cluster” of HIV cases.

In 2017 there were 18 case of HIV connected with intravenous drug use in Kenton and Campbell counties. Dr. Lynne Saddler, of the Northern Kentucky Health Department, said at a press conference Tuesday that’s a significant leap over much lower numbers over the last decade. At the most those counties have had five cases each year since 2008.. And, she said, that cluster is reason for concern that there might be a larger problem on the horizon.

One of the reason it is difficult to tell the true scope of the problem is because only about 42 percent of those at highest risk of infection – people use intravenous drugs – have been tested.

Kentucky law allows local health department to created needle exchange programs. Such programs require approval by not only the board of health but both the individual county’s fiscal court and the approval of the relevant city council.

Saddler said of the four counties served by her department, Boone, Campbell, Kenton and Grant counties, only Grant County has a fully operational needle exchange program.

State and national health officials say such programs are the most effective means of preventing infectious outbreaks related to opioid abuse.

Health officials say Campbell County is of particular concern because it one of the counties identified by the CDC as being at the highest risk of an HIV outbreak.