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.”
Thomas Farley, commissioner of Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health, said the increase “is something that definitely has us concerned.”
From 2016 to 2018, the number of new diagnoses reported in people who inject drugs has nearly doubled to 59.
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.
A safe injection site in the city would have the added benefits of bringing more people into contact with health-care providers and help reduce the spread of HIV, he said.