Health officials have declared an HIV outbreak in Thunder Bay’s homeless and under-housed population.

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit said they have seen a recent spike in cases in May and June of this year. With the year not even half over, the total number of cases since Jan. 1 is eight with two more cases under investigation.

The total number of new HIV cases in the district for all of 2018 was 11. In a news release, the health unit said the affected population is the same one impacted by the ongoing tuberculosis outbreak.

Transmission of HIV happens through sexual activity and sharing needles for injection-drug use. The health unit says that the general public is not at an increased risk.

“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,” said Dr. Janet DeMille, medical officer of health for the health unit.

The TBDHU is developing an enhanced HIV and tuberculosis strategy and is also engaging partners in a community-wide approach encompassing prevention, testing, harm reduction and improving access to health care.

HIV attacks cells that help the body fight infections and is spread by being in direct contact with certain bodily fluids of a person with HIV. There is no cure but there are effective treatment options available that can reduce the virus to undetectable levels.

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