County health officials take unusual step to try to stop man believed to have infected 8 with HIV

SEATTLE -- King County public health officials took the unusual step of going to court to try to stop an HIV-infected man who is believed to have given the virus to eight people in the past four years from infecting others, the Seattle Times reported Thursday.

Their move was successful, but it's unclear whether the man will obey the order.

On Sept. 4, King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector issued an order requiring the man, identified only as "AO," to follow the Public Health - Seattle & King County's  cease-and-desist order issued in late July that requires him to attend counseling and treatment appointments, the newspaper said.

The AO ignores the court order, the judge could order fines or even jail time, the Times said.

According to the newspaper, AO tested positive for HIV in June 2008 and instructed to disclose his status to sex partners and to practice safe sex. But since then, he is believed to have infected eight adult partners from 2010 through this June, without telling them beforehand that he carries the AIDS virus.

Public health officials said in court documents, the Times said, that eight people newly diagnosed with HIV had named AO as a partner with whom they had unprotected sex.

According to the newspaper, Dr. Matthew Golden, director of Public Health -- Seattle & King County's HIV/STD Control Program, said, “We’re not trying to criminalize sexual behavior here. We are trying to protect the public’s health. And we’re trying to make sure that everyone gets the care they need, including the person involved in this.”

The agency’s cease-desist order requires AO to seek treatment, Golden said, but does not compel him to comply.

“He can go to the doctor and not take the pills" for HIV, Golden said.