June 14, 2011
During an interview marking 30 years of AIDS, Desert AIDS Project CEO David Brinkman emphasized prevention, noting that sexual transmission remains the problem locally. DAP provides medical care, case management, and social services to 2,200 clients in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
It also offers free HIV testing across the Coachella Valley, and the proportion of positive results at those sites is 300 percent higher than the national average, Brinkman said. "That shows there's an alarming spread in this region in California."
The local area also has a gay-friendly, "HIV-accepting" community and a lower cost of living, attracting many people with HIV/AIDS, according to Riverside County's five-year HIV prevention plan.
"The high-risk groups today are much more diverse than they were three decades ago," Brinkman said. "We serve youth, our youngest patient now is 12, we serve seniors, we have folks in their 80s. What puts people at risk for this virus is not practicing safe sex. That we know can occur at any age and with both genders." "We do not have an IV drug-using population to the extent that you would see in other metropolitan areas," Brinkman added.
Asked about the potential for a cure within a decade, Brinkman replied, "I doubt it. The thing to know is that this horrific virus is entirely preventable for 25 cents with a condom."
"Because the medications have improved, there seems to be a decrease in the emphasis put on prevention and education," Brinkman said. "Yet, simultaneously, the infection rate is not decreasing. In a country as wealthy and educated as the United States, each year 20,000 kids get HIV. ... That should not be occurring. We know what should be done so nobody gets the virus."