County health officials describe HIV as a 'serious challenge' for the department
Mecklenburg County health officials say although the number of reported cases of HIV appears to have leveled off since the beginning of the year, it still poses a serious challenge for the department.
Mecklenburg County has one of the highest rates of infection — 29.3 people per 100,000 — in the nation and state. The latest state figures show nearly 7,000 people are infected with HIV, which represents pre-pandemic levels. Raynard Washington, the county’s public health director says 262 new HIV cases were reported between January and Aug. 31 this year.
"Our HIV rates haven’t gone down in a way I’d like them to," Washington said during a county commissioners meeting this week. "The HIV incidents were increasing pretty substantially and have now sort of leveled off, and that’s a good sign that some of our work is paying off."
Washington says the high rate of infection in the county is prompting officials to reach out to residents more aggressively to take an HIV test. Washington encouraged people to take advantage of the county’s free HIV test kits if they suspect they may be infected. He says more than 100 kits have been distributed since their "Let’s Get Checked" program launched this year.
"It allows people to take HIV and other STD tests at home and in private without having to come into one of our facilities, and it does take away some of the anxiety and stigma associated with the testing process," Washington said.
The kits are available at https://www.letsgetchecked.com/.
Washington says syphilis cases are also increasing in the county. He says 594 new cases were reported during the first eight months of this year. Washington says disease investigation teams are calling people who may be infected. They are also out knocking on doors in an effort to stop the spread of the infection.
Syphilis is not just affecting certain groups but people of all ages and genders, Washington said.