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Seattle earns high marks in controlling another viral epidemic: HIV/AIDS

This map from AIDSVu shows the rates of people living with HIV per 100,000 residents.
This map from AIDSVu shows the rates of people living with HIV per 100,000 residents.


The Seattle area is leading the way on controlling a viral epidemic, besides COVID-19. A new analysis of 39 citiesshows the region’s health system has been effective at treating people with HIV and AIDS. 

Seattle came out ahead of all the cities analyzed on a key measure: how many people infected with HIV are virally suppressed.

That means treatment is stopping the virus from reproducing in their bodies, which not only keeps them healthier but also prevents spread to others. Nearly 78 percent of infected people in the Seattle area are virally suppressed. 

“That's a really fantastic indicator that all those parts of the continuum, getting people diagnosed promptly, linked into care, started on anti-retrovirals, all that’s coming together in leading to the highest city-specific viral suppression,” said Patrick Sullivan, professor of epidemiology at Emory University. 

Sullivan, who also is a former researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, is Principal Scientist at AIDSVu, which tracks and maps key trends in HIV. 

He notes there are still disparities in those numbers, with Black and Latinx people somewhat less likely to be virally suppressed than whites. African Americans are substantially more likely to be diagnosed late than the population overall. 

Some 8,818 people in the Seattle area were living with HIV as of 2018. 

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.