A statement released by the Milwaukee Public School System, it was revealed that a large cluster of syphilis and HIV had been discovered in the city which included several high school aged students. While the Milwaukee Health Department has not yet released an official statement or report to the public, it is believed that over 125 people have been infected with HIV, syphilis or both over the past 12 months within the city. Several non-profit health groups and MPS have claimed to have been contacted by the health department about this cluster of STDs.
“This is an epidemic people are not talking about enough, and it leads to people taking unnecessary risks,” said Melissa Ugland, a public health consultant who works with a number of local nonprofit organizations that focus on public health. “(The cluster) was still considered ongoing; they were continuing to try to track down some folks.”
Many health officials expect this number of people affected by this cluster to grow as more people come forward. On Thursday, the MDH launched a series of advertisements promoting confidential STD testing in the area. Oftentimes, symptoms of an STD may not be present but the infection can still damage your long term health. For this reason, STD testing can often be the only way to detect an infection.
Syphilis is a curable STD if treated early enough. It is usually treated with antibiotics. Should syphilis remain untreated it can stay in the body for decades. In the primary stage of syphilis you may notice a small sore or rash. During the secondary stage, symptoms include sores in the mouth, vagina or anus. Body rashes can start while an initial sore is healing or several weeks later. Other symptoms in this phase include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches and fatigue. Eventually, the infection can develop into late stage syphilis which causes failure of several organs and can lead to death.
HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is an infection that attacks the body’s immune system. If left untreated, HIV can lead to AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. HIV can make a person more susceptible to other infections. Only certain bodily fluids can transmit HIV from one person to another. These fluids include blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluid, vaginal fluid and breast milk. In the U.S. the most common forms of HIV transmission are through oral, anal and vaginal sex. Sharing intravenous drug equipment can also lead to transmission of the infection. It is less common for HIV to be transmitted through a blood transfusion due to current screening standards of blood donations.
No effective cure for HIV exists but with proper medical care, HIV can be managed. Since the HIV/AIDs epidemic of the 1980s, treatments and medicines have been developed to help people with HIV live a long and healthy life.
Hopefully, the new campaigns will help to build sexual health awareness in Milwaukee. There are many options for STD testing in Milwaukee and the rest of Wisconsin. If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to an STD, such as syphilis or HIV, you should have testing performed right away. Testing is the best way to remain aware of the current status of your sexual health.