November 18, 2013
This article was reported by the Press-Telegram (Long Beach).
California's Long Beach Press-Telegram recently reported that local HIV advocates and health officials are urging sexually active individuals to get tested regularly and healthcare providers to make HIV testing more routine. Approximately 20 percent of people who have HIV do not know they have it.
Michael Buitron, outreach specialist with the Comprehensive AIDS Resource Education program, said gay men, who have the largest HIV incidence in the Long Beach area, need more access to testing. "We need more gay-friendly healthcare providers and more access to healthcare, more access to mental health, more access to testing," Buitron said. "If you're a gay man without insurance or a gay man with insurance but you have a doctor who squirms when you mention your sexuality, you're out of luck. You probably won't get tested."
The number of new HIV infections in 2011 was 157, compared with 127 in 2010. New AIDS diagnoses for both years were 46. Almost three-quarters of cases were in gay men. Mitchell Kushner, a health officer for Long Beach, encourages everyone to be tested annually. "Healthcare providers should be pushing the tests. The earlier we get people into treatment, the earlier we can prevent more infections," Kushner said.
A majority of the new HIV infections are in African-American and Latino men in their 20s. Kushner believes it is because they did not see the early devastation of the epidemic; thus, more prevention messages need to target today's youth. "They see it as a manageable disease with medication and therapy. But those medications have prolonged side effects and are expensive," Kushner said. He also thinks that pairing younger HIV-positive people with an older HIV-positive generation will educate them about the history of HIV/AIDS.