OLYMPIA – On March 26, 2004, the Thurston County Prosecutor's office released information about a Thurston County man who was charged with assault for allegedly having unprotected sex with multiple partners while knowing he was infected with the HIV virus.
In a report to the Thurston County Board of Health on May 3, 2004, Dr. Diana Yu, Thurston County Health Officer, reported that face-to-face contact has been made with 170 individuals who called the Health Department for information after the news release. Of the 170 individuals, less than 40 were actual primary contacts of the accused. Others included secondary or tertiary contacts or persons with information regarding other potential contacts. All received information on reducing their risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Of 125 staff at the Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Department, 53 at one time or another worked in some capacity to complete the necessary work. A total of just under $50,000.00 was accrued in personnel cost alone for this response. Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Director Sherri McDonald reminded the Board that this activity is routine public health work. "This is something we do everyday, the magnitude is just a bit larger."
Board of Health Chairman Bob McLeod agreed that it would be difficult for the Health Department budget to absorb the total cost of this investigation. Both Commissioner McLeod and Commissioner Cathy Wolfe directed Ms. McDonald to explore funding options with the help of the state Department of Health.
The media response to this case has led to an increase in information requests to health departments regarding risks for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Dr. Yu would like everyone to keep in mind that "If you are engaging in behaviors that put you at risk, you may become infected. It is the risky behavior, not only the partner involved, that increases your chances of becoming infected."
Those who wish more information on HIV/AIDS should visit the State Department of Health web site at http://www.doh.wa.gov/cfh/hiv.htm . Or they can call the statewide AIDS hotline at 800-272-AID