During the initial six months of 2018, the Department of Public Health and Human Services saw an increase in the number of HIV infections among people who inject drugs. DPHHS HIV Epidemiologist Helen McCaffrey says this is concerning because people are putting themselves and their partners at risk.

“Overall in Montana we had 11 new cases in the first six months, but when local and state public health investigated these cases we found out that about half were among people who injected drugs,” McCaffrey said. “We were watching this because usually in a typical year we have an average of about 22 percent.”

According to McCaffrey, Montana sees approximately 23 HIV cases a year. She says numbers are lower this year, but the risk behavior trend is concerning.

“We just really wanted people to know that if people are injecting drugs the best thing to do is to stop injecting drugs,” McCaffrey said. “A huge message we want to get out is that people who inject drugs should talk to their providers and have an honest conversation about HIV testing. They should also talk to their providers to get referrals about substance abuse treatment.”

McCaffrey says folks can visit GetTested.MT.gov to find out where to get a free HIV test in Montana and where you can exchange or get clean syringes.