hiv aids

Seattle court orders HIV-positive man to stop spreading the virus

Scanning electron micrograph of HIV-1 budding from cultured lymphocyte. The multiple round bumps on cell surface represent sites of assembly and budding of virions.

Scanning electron micrograph of HIV-1 budding from cultured lymphocyte. The multiple round bumps on cell surface represent sites of assembly and budding of virions.  (CDC.gov)

An HIV-positive man in Seattle could face jail time if he fails to comply with a court order seeking to prevent him from spreading the disease to his sexual partners, King County officials said Thursday.

Public health officials took the rare step of seeking a cease-and-desist order against the man, identified only as "AO," who became aware of his HIV-positive status in 2008 but has since infected at least eight people, court documents said.

Health officials in Seattle said the move was not criminalizing sexual behavior or infringing on personal liberty, but was instead aimed at protecting public health.

"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," King County Health spokeswoman Hilary Karasz said in a statement.

The agency said it has only sought a cease-and-desist order against an HIV-positive individual once before, in 1993.

In this case, the man must show up for counseling sessions and adopt behaviors that will protect future sexual partners, according to the court order.

If he does not comply, he could face jail time for contempt of court, officials said.