US judge orders HIV-positive man to stop infecting others

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - A US judge has ordered a man with HIV to stop infecting others after he passed on the AIDS virus to eight sexual partners in four years, officials said on Friday.

Local authorities in Seattle had issued two case-and-desist orders over the last few months but then took the extremely rare step of bringing the case to court, where it was confirmed by a judge.

"We're not trying to criminalize sexual behavior here," Dr. Matthew Golden of the Seattle and King County public health department told the Seattle Times newspaper.

"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 man, identified only as "AO," tested positive for HIV in 2008. He received counseling but went on to infect eight sexual partners between 2010 and this year, according to court documents cited by the Times.

In June this year, officials served a cease-and-desist order requiring him to attend more counseling, and another in August specifying that he must seek HIV treatment, the newspaper reported.

In a statement, the health department said it issues cease-and-desist orders about once a year but has only sought legal enforcement of such an order once in the past, in 1993.

"In the case in question, we felt legal enforcement was the best way to assure the health of the patient and public," it said.

King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector ordered the man to comply with the July order on September 4, saying he must attend counseling and all appointments by public health officials.

If he fails to do so, the judge could order escalating fines and throw him in jail, according to the Times.

The department said that its "primary goal is to ensure that all HIV-infected persons, including the person for whom we recently sought enforcement of a health order, know their HIV status and receive the medical care they need." "All of our work related to the case in question has been designed to ensure that an HIV infected person receives needed medical care and adopts behaviors that protect both him and his sex partners," it added.

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