Thunder Bay health unit warning of HIV outbreak in city's homeless population
8 cases of HIV confirmed since January 1, recent spike reported in May, June
Public health officials in Thunder Bay, Ont., are declaring an outbreak of HIV in the city that they say is centred around people who are homeless or "under-housed."
It's the same population that's been impacted by an outbreak of tuberculosis, the Thunder Bay District Health Unit said in a written release issued Tuesday afternoon.
Eight cases of HIV have been confirmed since January 1, the health unit said, with a spike in reported cases in May and June, which prompted the outbreak warning. Two additional cases are being investigated.
"Transmission [of HIV] is through sexual activity and sharing needles for injection drug use," the health unit's statement said. "There are likely further cases that have not yet been diagnosed."
In 2018, 11 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in the Thunder Bay District Health Unit's entire catchment area, which includes the city and a number of communities east of the Lakehead.
"The HIV outbreak, especially with the concurrent tuberculosis outbreak, is a crisis situation impacting individuals, families and communities already experiencing significant burden associated with infectious disease, mental health and addiction issues as well as broader social, historical and systemic issues," Dr. Janet DeMille, the health unit's medical officer of health, was quoted as saying in Tuesday's release.
Public health officials say they're working on an HIV/tuberculosis strategy to help deal with these issues, adding that it's looking to strengthen an approach that "considers prevention, testing, harm reduction and improving access to health care and other services for people."
The health unit says the general population in the city is not at an increased risk due to the outbreak.