HEALTH ALERT: Spike of HIV cases in Fairbanks, free rapid HIV testing available
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reports a spike in HIV cases in Fairbanks among men having sex with men who use the internet to find anonymous sex partners. Free rapid HIV testing is offered this week at the Fairbanks Regional Public Health Center and every week Monday through Thursday at the Interior Aids Association. This test consists of simply swabbing the inside of the mouth; results are available within 20 minutes.
- Location: 1025 W. Barnette, Fairbanks, AK (see map)
- Date/time: Wednesday, Feb 22, 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM and Thursday, Feb 23, 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM. No appointment necessary.
- Further info: Call (907) 452-1776.
- Location: 710 3rd Avenue, Fairbanks, AK (see map)
- Date/time: Every Monday through Thursday, 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM
- Further info: Contact IAA at (907) 452-4222.
DHSS also reports a syphilis outbreak in Anchorage. Both the increase in HIV cases in Fairbanks and the syphilis outbreak in Anchorage appear to be particularly affecting men who have sex with men who seek anonymous sexual partners online. Of the nine men infected with HIV in 2011 in Fairbanks, eight were men who have sex with men, and seven were either in the U.S. Army stationed in Fairbanks, or had sexual partners who were in the military.
The HIV and syphilis outbreaks are the subjects of two epidemiology bulletins issued yesterday —
- 21 Feb 2012: “HIV Outbreak — Fairbanks, 2011–2012.” State of Alaska Epidemiology Bulletin.
- 21 Feb 2012: “Syphilis Outbreak —Alaska, 2011–2012.” State of Alaska Epidemiology Bulletin.
— and have also been widely covered in the Alaska press, including:
- 21 Feb 2012: “State Concerned Over Increasing Numbers of HIV Cases” By Lori Townsend (Alaska Public Radio Network (APRN))
- 21 Feb 2012: “Sudden spike of HIV cases in Fairbanks area concerns health officials” by Eric Christopher Adams (Alaska Dispatch)
- 22 Feb 2012: “Spike in HIV cases reported in Fairbanks linked to military — Nine new cases reported in year” by Michelle Theriault Boots (Anchorage Daily News)
Here is the press release issued yesterday by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. [Update: The dates/times for free rapid HIV testing at Interior AIDS Association were incorrect in the press release, and have been corrected by Bent Alaska based on direct discussion with IAA.]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Feb. 21, 2012
Contact: Greg Wilkinson, 907-269-7285, Cell 907-382-7032
Ann Potempa, 907-269-7957, Cell 907-230-4001
Brandy Ostanik, 907-361-5091, Cell 907-590-8877
State reports increase in new HIV, syphilis cases
Testing encouraged for early detection
ANCHORAGE — The Department of Health and Social Services HIV/STD Program is reporting an increase in reported cases of HIV and syphilis during 2011. The new HIV cases were clustered in the Fairbanks area, while the syphilis outbreak is mainly concentrated in Anchorage.
An analysis of the data shows the HIV infection case count in Fairbanks spiked in 2011, with a total of nine cases of HIV reported between Jan. 1, 2011, and Jan. 31, 2012. Of the nine cases, eight involved men having sex with men, seven of whom reported meeting anonymous sexual partners online. In addition, seven of the nine were either in the U.S. Army or had sexual partners associated with the military, and four were 20 years old or younger.
The HIV/STD program is also working on a recent outbreak of syphilis cases in the Anchorage area. Since January 2011, 13 new cases of infectious and early syphilis have been reported; nine since October. The current outbreak involves similar risk characteristics as the cluster of new HIV cases in Fairbanks, including men who have had sex with men and who find partners online.
“Several of the patients were co-infected with both syphilis and HIV,” said Susan Jones, the HIV/STD program manager, “and having both diseases increases the potential for passing the infections due to open sores.”
Everyone with risk factors for HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases should use appropriate precautions when having sex and should be tested. Testing sites for HIV and STDs can be found at: http://www.hivtest.org/.
Free rapid HIV testing is available at the Fairbanks Public Health Center, Feb. 21, from 1 to 5 p.m.; Feb. 22, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Feb. 23, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Call the health center at 907-452-1776 for more information. The Interior AIDs Association, in Fairbanks, will also be offering free rapid HIV tests,
from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 21–24 every week Monday through Thursday from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM. IAA can be reached at 907-452-4222.
A rapid HIV test consists of simply swabbing the inside of the mouth. Results are available within 20 minutes.
More information on both outbreaks is available at: http://www.epi.hss.state.ak.us/bulletins.