The King County Board of Health endorsed a strategy to reduce new HIV infections in King County by 25 percent by 2015. There are about 370 new HIV infections in King County each year, and the Board resolved to support a strategy that places the greatest emphasis on people at highest risk for HIV infection. The goal is to reduce new infections to 280 cases per year within eight years.
"HIV continues to infect hundreds of people in King County every year, causing human suffering and premature death," said Julia Patterson, King County councilmember and Board of Health chair. "The Board of Health is committed to reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS, and with our action today, I feel confident that fewer individuals will have to endure the pain and distress that HIV and AIDS causes."
"People in our community at highest risk for contracting HIV include men who have sex with men, injection drug users, and foreign-born Blacks," said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health - Seattle & King County. "The recommendations made and strategic plan approved by the Board today focus on these higher risk groups in order to be more effective in curbing the epidemic across the community."
The strategic plan was developed with the support of the Board of Health HIV/AIDS Committee, which includes Dr. George Counts, and Seattle City Council members Tom Rasmussen and Sally Clark. As part of the committee's work, a wide range of community stakeholders were interviewed as well as Public Health's HIV/AIDS Program staff. As a result of their work, the committee developed recommendations for HIV prevention which were incorporated into the plan.
"The Board of Health is taking a stand to combat HIV infections, and through this new plan our efforts are renewed and strengthened," said Dr. Counts, Chair of the HIV/AIDS Committee. "Reducing new HIV infections by 25 percent by 2015 will be challenging, but it's essential work to bring this epidemic under control."
"The continuing rate of HIV transmission is not acceptable," said Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen. "We have the knowledge to prevent the spread of HIV and we need to challenge ourselves and set goals to find better ways to reduce new infections. Today, the Board of Health has made a commitment to prevent new cases of what is still a devastating disease."
"With the advent of new treatment options, more people are living with HIV," said Seattle Councilmember Sally Clark. "But with hope has also come complacency and a return to riskier behavior. The strategy endorsed by the Board today will reinvigorate HIV prevention work community-wide, and remind people that HIV and AIDS continue to be a health crisis."
The HIV/AIDS Committee's recommendations and the strategic plan focus on two main goals:
• Identify new HIV cases community-wide and decrease risky behaviors. As many as 15 to 25 percent of people infected with HIV in King County do not know they are infected. Research shows that when people know they are HIV positive, they tend to reduce risky behaviors, which helps to prevent the spread of the disease to others, as well as initiate life-saving treatment.
• Reduce HIV transmission across the county by promoting safer sex and drug use behaviors in highest risk communities, as well as early treatment for infected people, which may reduce infectiousness and prolong their lives.
As of June, there have been 6,188 King County residents reported living with HIV or AIDS. This figure does not include undiagnosed or unreported infections. Eighty-six percent of reported cases in King County are men who have sex with men, intravenous drug users or foreign-born Blacks.
For more information on HIV and AIDS, visit www.metrokc.gov/health/apu