Public health officials are concerned about a cluster of new HIV infections among people described as being homeless, heterosexuals and drug users in North Seattle, with eight such cases identified during routine testing, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County.
“This cluster is unusual and worrying, suggesting that we are seeing an increase in HIV among heterosexuals who inject drugs, and that HIV could be gaining inroads into the heterosexual population through injection drug use,” said Dr. Matthew Golden, a doctor with the health department’s HIV/STD program.
In the past decade, an average of 10 heterosexual people who use injection drugs are diagnosed with HIV in the county each year. So far this year, 19 people with the same characteristics have been diagnosed, according to the news release.
Homelessness, injection drug use and unprotected sex are risk factors for HIV transmission. Earlier this year, public health officials also warned of outbreaks of rare infectious diseases – including streptococcus A cases that became fatal flesh-eating bacteria – among people who were homeless.
Health officials are increasing outreach and testing, providing case management to new HIV patients and continuing to provide access through needle exchanges to sterile equipment and condoms, the news release said.
Officials plan to hold a news conference at 1:30 p.m. with more details.
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