Six cases of HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS, have been reported in the Fairbanks region since May, according to an advisory Wednesday evening from the state Department of Health and Social Services.
The six cases of human immunodeficiency virus are “an unusually high number of cases in a short time period for this area,” reads the notice, which came in the form of an email to Fairbanks media outlets.
The notice says the state health department is distributing a letter to Fairbanks health care providers about the cases and asks them to “ask patients questions, screen for HIV and STD risks, encourage testing, and promote HIV prevention for those at-risk to help protect the health of individuals and stop the further spread of HIV in Alaska.”
The email from the department stated that all of the cases were in men and that five of the men were either in the military or reported having sex with someone in the military.
Ages of the infected men ranged from 21 to 33 years. Five of them were diagnosed with HIV, and five reported having sex with men.
Smartphone apps were used to find sex partners in the majority of cases, the email reads.
Health officials interviewed the infected men and during that process learned the identifies of the men’s partners. Those partners are being offered health services, according to the email, “but many of the sexual encounters are anonymous, so many of those exposed are not able to be notified or tested.”
Health officials want to alert the public so that people who may have contracted the virus can get tested.
“We want to encourage providers to do vigilant screening per the national guidelines,” said Susan Jones, HIV/STD program manager, in the health department’s advisory. “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.”
HIV testing is available at the following locations:
• Fairbanks Public Health Center, 1025 Barnette St. Phone: 452-1776
• Planned Parenthood, 1867 Airport Way, Suite 160-B. Phone: 800-769-0045
• Interior AIDS Association, 710 Third Ave. Phone: 452-4222
• Fort Wainwright, 1060 Gaffney Road, Public Health Building No. 4077. Phone: 361-5182
• Eielson Air Force Base Public Health Clinic, 2630 Central Ave. Phone: 377-6526
Alaska had 58 reported cases of HIV infection in 2018, according to a March report from the state Section of Epidemiology, a component of the Department of Health and Social Services. Of those, 22 cases were newly diagnosed in Alaska. The remaining 36 cases were in people who had been diagnosed out of state prior to come to Alaska.
Of the 22 cases diagnosed in Alaska last year, ages ranged from 17 to 63, 19 were male, 15 were non-whites, 16 were of men who have sex with men, three were diagnosed with AIDS at the time of their initial diagnosis, and none are known to have died, according to the the report.
Contact News-Miner Editor Rod Boyce at 459-7585. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNM editor.