New HIV infections in North Seattle worry public health officials
Public health officials in King County are concerned about a cluster of HIV infections in North Seattle.
The new infections are worrying in part because they suggest an increase in heterosexual infections linked to injection drug use.
Officials with Public Health Seattle King County say the eight infected individuals are homeless and were using drugs intravenously.
The number of cases is double the average number for heterosexual people who use injection drugs in past years. Public Health’s Dr. Jeff Duchin says the county is investigating how the virus was transmitted.
“If HIV begins to spread in a new population of persons who inject drugs, who don’t have other risk factors for HIV, there can be a large outbreak potentially,” Duchin said.
In response, Duchin says the county will be stepping up outreach and needle exchange services.
“We are taking the very important step of expanding access to sterile injection equipment in the community with community partners and providing access to condoms as well,” Duchin said.
Public Health is also working to provide case management for the infected individuals.