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Alaska health officials report surge in Fairbanks HIV cases

  • Author: Associated Press
  • Updated: September 27, 2019
  • Published September 27, 2019

FAIRBANKS - The Fairbanks region has seen an unusual increase in new cases of HIV in recent months, health officials said.

This electron microscope image shows HIV virions. (CDC via AP)

The state Department of Health and Social Services since May has identified six new cases of HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Wednesday.

The reported cases are an unusually high number in such a short time period for the Fairbanks area, the department said in an email.

Those infected are men between the ages of 21 and 33 and five are either in the military or reported having sex with someone in the military, the department said.

Health officials interviewed the infected men and learned the identities of their partners, who have also been offered health services, the department said, "but many of the sexual encounters are anonymous, so many of those exposed are not able to be notified or tested."

The state sent a letter asking Fairbanks-area health care providers to screen patients for risks associated with HIV and promote prevention and testing.

"We want to encourage providers to do vigilant screening per the national guidelines," said Susan Jones, program manager. "And we want men who engage in high-risk behaviors that put them at risk for HIV transmission to be aware of this case cluster, so they can take appropriate preventative measures and get tested now and often."

Alaska had 58 reported cases of HIV infection in 2018, including 22 newly diagnosed cases and 36 cases involving people who were diagnosed prior to arriving in the state, according to a health department report released in March.