The opioid epidemic now brings one more worry for public health professionals in the city and at least one suburban county, as the number of new HIV diagnoses — which had been declining — has substantially increased among those who inject drugs. “There is a new epidemic among people who use IV drugs,” said Jane Shull, chief executive officer of Philadelphia Fight Community Health Centers, which provides HIV primary care and education for low-income patients. “We have seen a lot of people in the health centers with new [HIV] infections.”
But from 2016 to 2018, the number of new diagnoses reported in people who inject drugs has nearly doubled to 59, a number that is sure to rise when all the data are finalized, said James Garrow, spokesperson for the Department of Public Health.
Farley said the department has increased testing in areas of the city where people inject drugs and is expanding the availability of clean syringes. HIV is being spread by those who are infected and share needles, he said.
The department is also expanding the use of PrEP, a daily pill that lowers the risk of getting the virus, he said.
“It is not easy,” Farley said. “They are not a population that tends to access medical care.”