When the military realized a sergeant stationed at McConnell Air Force Base may have knowingly exposed people to HIV at "swinger events" in the Wichita area, it contacted Mayor Carl Brewer's office and the Sedgwick County Department of Health.
It does that whenever a communicable disease may have been spread.
So far, county health officials haven't started tracking down people who may have been exposed.
They are still getting information from officials at McConnell that should help them track down people who may have been exposed, said Jason Ybarra, the county's senior disease intervention specialist.
"Obviously, we want to do this quickly," he said. "If someone feels they may have been exposed through this incident or any other incident, get tested rather than sit back and not get tested."
Court documents indicate that one profile on an adult website shows that the Air Force sergeant attended 21 "swinger parties" from January 2009 to July this year. Such parties typically involve promiscuous sex, sometimes with multiple partners.
It's unclear how many people the man may have exposed to the virus, but if one person were exposed at each of the parties he is said to have attended, it could lead to a spike in the number of new HIV cases in Sedgwick County.
Last year, 33 new HIV cases were confirmed.
Overall, 729 people in the county are known to have HIV or AIDS.
County officials say that the sergeant's activities may represent the largest HIV exposure in recent memory.
But they said the use of adult web sites to meet strangers for sex encounters or parties has become commonplace.
Ybarra said it can be frustrating for officials to track because many people use screen names or false names, and many people aren't forthcoming about their activity.
"A lot of this stuff is underground," he said. "A lot of people don't openly say 'yeah we're swingers. We hit these parties all the time.' "
The emerging case
The allegations facing the sergeant surfaced last Friday when TheSmokingGun.com, a site that specializes in posting exclusive documents, released a story accompanied by U.S. District Court search warrant documents.
The documents, which the military confirmed are authentic, were briefly available online without redactions.
They allege that the HIV-positive sergeant "had engaged in numerous, unprotected sexual acts with a multitude of sexual partners over the course of three years."
The affidavit says the sergeant's spouse said he contacted people overseas he may have exposed to HIV while he was stationed there. But she said he hasn't told men and women he has been with since arriving at McConnell in 2008.
A woman from Winfield that authorities interviewed said she had met the sergeant through an adult web site and later met him at a swinger party at "the barn" in Goddard.
Another woman from Wichita said she met the man, who is in his 40s, on another adult website and went to his Wichita home on Thanksgiving in 2009 and had unprotected sex with him.
Court documents say that he did not disclose that he is HIV-positive.
In Kansas, it is a felony to knowingly expose someone to a life-threatening communicable disease by having sex, donating body fluids or sharing needles.
The sergeant was arrested on Aug. 9 after military investigators conducted an undercover operation.
He was ordered to pretrial confinement at McConnell Air Force Base and remains there, but he has not been charged, according to Linda J. Card, chief of public affairs with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
He awaits a hearing in September.
AIDS is a chronic, and potentially deadly, condition caused by HIV. It interferes with your body's ability to fight off disease.
It's transmitted by sex, blood contact or from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breast-feeding.
It can take up to six months after exposure for the virus to show up in tests.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn't have any specific guidelines on how to investigate and deal with the type of exposure that may have happened in Wichita, said spokeswoman Jennifer Ruth Horvath.
Ybarra, Sedgwick County's senior disease intervention specialist, said that whenever someone tests positive for HIV, AIDS, syphilis or other diseases, it strongly encourages them to contact anyone who may have been exposed.
The county will help people track down past partners that infected people may have met online or otherwise.
If the newly-diagnosed person doesn't want to do that, the county will ask for names or other identifying information so it can try to contact people who may have been exposed.
It strongly encourages those people to be tested.
The county works with local drug treatment facilities, colleges and other groups. It also targets specific groups that are more likely to carry and transmit HIV.
It offers free testing to them or anyone who wants it.
Recently, the county has focused on syphilis, the potentially deadly sexually transmitted disease that has been on the rise in Sedgwick County for about three years.
Last year, 30 new cases were reported. Twenty-nine new cases have already been reported this year.
Ybarra said the county is trying to find new ways to work with the state and get its message out online, where many people now go to find sexual partners.
His message is simple for both the emerging case in Wichita and in general: "If you think you've been put at risk, get tested."