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CDC Studying Local HIV Data To Help Prevent New Cases

Ann Thompson
This building, across the street from the Hamilton County Health Department, is one place the CDC investigators are working while in Greater Cincinnati.

Eight investigators from the Centers for Disease Control are in Greater Cincinnati for the next several weeks trying to determine similarities in HIV cases among intravenous drug users on both sides of the Ohio River. It's hoped their findings can help prevent new cases.

Hamilton County Health Commissioner Tim Ingram and District Director of the Northern Kentucky Health Department Lynne Saddler called their own state health departments requesting the CDC's help after an increase in the number of HIV infections.

"These are some of the best minds in the world relative to HIV," Ingram says. "They are subject matter experts so they are going to take data streams so we can get a full picture of what's going on."

Ingram says he already knows the face of the disease and the hotspots but needs to know similarities in cases and how to do better in community outreach.

Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
Dir. of Nursing Laura McCreadie and Dr. Tim Ingram, Hamilton County health commissioner, receive daily reports from the CDC as the agency gets new findings.

Hamilton County saw an increase in cases among injectable drug users from 2016 to 2017, going from about 150 a year to 190. In the interim, he asked hospitals to do more testing for HIV and to assist in prevention education.

But both he and Saddler wanted to get ahead before the number of new cases were four to five times as many as before. That's why they called in the CDC.

The CDC is issuing daily reports to the health departments as it makes findings. Investigators have already made one suggestion: to more thoroughly interview drug users at syringe exchange sites.

Says Ingram, "If we didn't have syringe exchange programs I hate to think how much higher the rate would be."

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.