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Second HIV Cluster Reported In Western Pennsylvania


Pittsburgh suburbs are reporting an alarming spike of HIV and gonorrhea instances — which has health officials scrambling for a solution.

Following the news of one of the largest HIV clusters found in Milwaukeee, according to local health officials, Beaver County, Pennsylvania saw a 300 percent increase in HIV cases and a 34 percent increase in go gonorrhea among 15- to 24-year-olds in 2017 compared to 2016. The surge of reported STIs, in addition, is keeping the pace through 2018.

The blame has been directed at everything from Millennial and Generation Z attitudes to poor STI education.

The younger population in the area is “more promiscuous today than probably ever before,” Dr. Frank DiCenzo from Allegheny Health Network’s Premier Women’s Health in Sewickley, Pennsylvania told KDKA. DiCenco called the epidemic “very concerning.”

There were 137 Beaver County residents who had new cases of gonorrhea in 2016, the latest number available, plus a steady handful of HIV cases in recent years. Both gonorrhea and HIV can remain asymptomatic if regular STI testing isn’t put into motion.

Nearby in Allegheny County, HIV rates are soaring as well. In Allegheny County, officials were compelled to open the Blakey Center Hill District clinic designed exclusively for STIs and HIV. In Allegheny County, 119 new HIV diagnoses were reported in 2013, then by 128 in 2014, 142 in 2015 and 127 in 2016.

Stuart Fisk is a nurse practitioner and the director at the Center for Inclusion Health via the Allegheny Health Network. “What does that represent? And that, I don’t think we know,” Fisk told The Times. “If that represents the beginning of the spread of HIV into the injection drug-using population, then that’s potentially an explosive spread of HIV. If it’s isolated to a small group of men who are having sex with each other, then it may not be a significant public health issue. But we don’t really know.”

The Center for Inclusion Health also operates an intermittent satellite clinic in Beaver County called the Positive Health Clinic that treats people living with HIV.

Fisk noted that nationally, African-American men who have sex with other men represented a group that is being infected with HIV at a higher rate than any other population that was observed.

Fisk and others worry that condom usage is slipping among young teens and adults, as the plague days of HIV and AIDS are slowing down. Officials also tried to explain the surge with the rise of dating apps like Grindr and Tinder.


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Benjamin M. Adams