Washington County Records Four Cases of Drug-Resistant HIV
Four men in King County, Washington, have been diagnosed with a strain of HIV that is resistant to at least two types of antiretroviral drugs, and health officials on Thursday said they are concerned the strain could spread, the Seattle Times reports. According to the Times, a third antiretroviral has limited effectiveness against the strain (King, Seattle Times, 2/2). Officials said that the same genetic strain of HIV was recorded within 15 months among the men, who were diagnosed with the drug-resistant strain as soon as they tested HIV positive. The men used methamphetamine and had multiple anonymous sexual partners, including men. None of the men was known to have had sex with any of the other three, according to officials (AP/Houston Chronicle, 2/2). Some of the men's partners have been identified, none of whom has tested positive for the resistant strain, Bob Wood, HIV/AIDS program director for the Seattle-King County Public Health Department, said. There is no information about how easily this strain might be transmitted or whether it was spread to Seattle from another city. The agency plans to distribute fliers in gay bars and bathhouses about the HIV strain, and physicians are being asked to test all newly diagnosed HIV cases for drug resistance and report them to the health department, Wood said. According to physicians, it is unlikely the drug-resistant HIV strain will cause the men to progress more rapidly to AIDS; however, once they do progress to the disease, treating them will be more difficult (Seattle Times, 2/2). Health officials as of last week had recorded 12 cases of multidrug-resistant HIV in the county, but none of the cases was as resistant to antiretrovirals as the most recent four, the AP/Chronicle reports (AP/Houston Chronicle, 2/2). About 350 to 400 new HIV cases are reported in King County annually, and about 8,000 county residents are living with the virus. Wood said the new cases should serve as an early warning because "they show there is some ongoing transmission" (Seattle Times, 2/2). Wood added, "This is mostly about behavior. Men who have sex with men need to know that drug-resistant strains can and are being transmitted and may be much less treatable" (Paulson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2/2).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.