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Tipsheet

HIV Rising Amongst Homeless Population Due To Opioid Epidemic

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The Seattle Times reports that in clusters of heterosexual homeless men and women, HIV is rising due to the sharing of syringes and needles as the opioid crisis devastates the area. But, as the piece notes, Seattle is just one of many cities experiencing similar public health problems. 

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The Seattle Time's Ryan Bethlen notes "Since January 2018, 17 people have contracted HIV in the cluster. The cases are connected to a strain of HIV that 26 people have been diagnosed with going back to 2008. Across King County, from 2017 to 2018, HIV diagnoses have risen threefold for heterosexuals who inject drugs."

But this sort of disease is not limited to Seattle alone.  Health experts told Bethlen that "the rapid increase of the infection rate is likely the coupling of a growing homeless population and the exploding opioid epidemic." This has affected areas such as "Cincinnati, Scout County, Indiana, and in the Lowell and Lawrence areas of Massachusetts." 

Dr. Matthew Golden, director of Public Health’s HIV/STD program, said what Seattle has is "a growing population at risk."  Despite having a government-backed needle exchange program for drug users, "it wasn’t reaching people in this area and added to the virus." 

Coupled with a large homeless population as well as hundreds of people who either do not have access to or refuse to seek medical treatment HIV continues to spread amongst men and women, including prostitutes who could be spreading the disease to unsuspecting victims.

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But for Seattle, other infectious diseases are cropping up as well. "Seattle & King County issued advisories last year for outbreaks of rare diseases such as shigella and Bartonella quintana, known as “trench fever” when it spread among World War I soldiers," the Seattle Times reports.

Experts say the solution is solving the homeless crisis as well as making healthcare more affordable. 

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