Number of HIV Infections Among Seattle-Area Men Who Have Sex With Men Increases 40% From 2001 to 2002
The number of HIV infections diagnosed among Seattle-area men who have sex with men who attended public health clinics increased 40% from 2001 to 2002, according to public health officials, the New York Times reports (Preusch, New York Times, 6/5). For their analysis, public health officials examined test results from HIV screenings conducted in public health clinics beginning in 2000, according to the Seattle Times. Although about 11% more HIV tests were given to MSM in 2002 versus the previous year, the testing increase does not explain the jump in positive results, Robert Wood, director of the HIV/AIDS Program of the Seattle and King County Public Health Department, said. "It's the most dramatic increase since the beginning of the [HIV/AIDS] epidemic," Wood said. If the trend continues, officials predict that new infections could increase by another 60% in 2003. MSM represent approximately 85% of HIV/AIDS cases in King County, according to the Times (King, Seattle Times, 6/4).
Destigmatize HIV Testing
Wood said that new life-prolonging treatment for HIV/AIDS, along with "prevention burnout," has led MSM to resume risky sexual behavior, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "AIDS is no longer as scary as it used to be," Wood said, adding, "It's now viewed as a long-term manageable disease. There's just not as much fear, which may be contributing to the unsafe behavior" (Paulson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 6/4). Cases of other STDs, including syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia, have been on the rise for three years in the area, and health officials predicted that an increase in HIV cases would follow, according to the Times. To encourage testing, the health department is using the rapid HIV test, called OraQuick, which can produce results in 20 minutes. Health officials and AIDS advocates say that all sexually active MSM need to be tested for HIV, disclose their status to sexual partners and practice safe sex, according to the Times. "We need to take HIV out of the closet," Jack Johnston, program coordinator for Positive Power, a counseling group for MSM, said, adding, "It's the responsibility of all guys who are sexually active to be talking about it. And don't be afraid to talk about it if you have it" (Seattle Times, 6/4).