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New HIV Threat Found in King County

Four men in King County have been diagnosed with a strain of HIV that is extremely hard to treat, and health officials are concerned it could spread further.//

At least two types of HIV drugs don't work against the strain, and another type has limited effectiveness, officials from Public Health — Seattle & King County said Thursday.

"It's conceivable there can be more infections, and the gay community is at highest risk," said Dr. Bob Wood, the HIV/AIDS program director for Public Health.

All the men were diagnosed with the strain as soon as they tested positive for the virus — unlike other HIV patients who develop drug resistance over time, often from taking medications inconsistently, Wood said. But there is no evidence the strain is rapidly spreading.

The four known cases were found over the course of more than a year. These were the only such cases reported in the state.

Wood said all of the infected men are gay and have had multiple partners, most anonymous. They also used methamphetamine, which tends to increase sexual activity.

Public-health officials have found some of the patients' partners, and so far none has the resistant strain. But many others have not been found because the men had anonymous sexual encounters, Wood said.

No one yet knows how easily this particular strain may be transmitted to others. There is no evidence it was spread to Seattle from another city.

Still, Wood said the cases should serve as an early warning because "they show there is some ongoing transmission."

"We're very concerned about gay men becoming more complacent and not using condoms," said Wood. Studies in Seattle and other cities have verified that gay men in recent years have been engaging in more unsafe sex.

Physicians don't believe the new strain will cause the infected patients to progress more rapidly to full-blown AIDS. But once they do have AIDS, finding the right comb
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