Washington Men Get Hard-to-Treat HIV Strain
On Thursday, King County health officials announced they are investigating a highly drug-resistant HIV strain found in four gay men over a period of 15 months. There is no evidence the strain is spreading rapidly. All four infected men were methamphetamine users and engaged in sex with multiple partners, though not with each other, officials said.
"We are still working to learn more about these individuals and the virus they have contracted," said Dorothy F. Teeter, interim director of Public Health-Seattle & King County (PHSKC). "We are concerned for these individuals and their partners and are continuing our investigation."
"There's no evidence that this has spread outside of King County ," said Dr. Patrick Sullivan, chief of the behavioral and clinical surveillance branch at CDC. Nationally, 2-3 percent of HIV strains may be resistant to two to three classes of drugs, he said.
PHSKC's HIV/AIDS program director, Dr. Bob Wood, said there is evidence of declining condom use and increased complacency about safe sex in the area's gay community, especially among drug users. "People need to know that some of these new infections may be impossible to treat," he said.
Since 2003, PHSKC has identified 12 drug-resistant HIV cases, though none as highly resistant as the strain among the four men, who are not yet symptomatic. Wood said experts fear the highly resistant strain could progress rapidly to AIDS. Experts are also concerned that the cost to treat resistant HIV could be more than double that of typical strains.
S. Alex Williams