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Alaska STD Rates Soar; Blamed on Military Men Finding Sex Online

A recent spike in HIV infections in Alaska has been linked to military men finding sex partners online, according to newly released public health data.

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Since January 2011, newly-reported cases of HIV in Fairbanks have more than doubled, the Alaska Dispatch cited Susan Jones, Alaska's HIV/STD program manager, as saying.

The paper wrote that while between two and four new cases a year were reported in Fairbanks, at least nine people were newly diagnosed as HIV positive last year.

The Alaskan Department of Health and Social Services, meantime, issued a public health bulletin to alert the state to not only the HIV outbreak, but syphilis also, the Alaska Native News reported.

The reports specified the cases were reported in Fairbanks and Anchorage, the paper reported, adding that of the nine cases of HIV reported in Fairbanks:

-Seven of those cases involved anonymous sexual partners online.

-Seven involved members of the US Army or sexual partners who were in the Army.

-Four of the cases involved individuals 20 years of age or younger.

-Eight of the cases involved men having sex with men.

Sex-seeking Internet sites had been a major conduit for high-risk sex linked to STD infection in the Lower 48 also, the Associated Press cited Jones as saying.

"People used to find sex partners in bathhouses and on the street and now it’s on Craigslist."

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Bill Coppernoll told the AP that the military required HIV screening of soldiers every two years, as well as before and after deployments.

While HIV-positive soldiers could continue on active duty in the military, they weren't allowed to serve overseas and were also ordered to inform future sex partners of their infection.

Coppernoll said that soldiers were briefed on "high-risk behaviors" like unprotected sex that can lead to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

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