California: Receding From Castro, HIV/AIDS Spreads in San Francisco's Tenderloin District
June 12, 2006
Once decimated by HIV/AIDS, San Francisco's gay men now have the highest testing rates and lowest new infection rates of any major US city hard-hit by the epidemic. However, the virus has shifted to the city's most destitute neighborhoods, affecting smaller populations who are harder to reach. "As long as one infection leads to another," said Dr. Willi McFarland, director of HIV surveillance for the San Francisco Department of Health, "it will continue. The battle is not won."
The number of new HIV infections in the United States has plunged from 160,000 per year at the epidemic's peak to about 40,000 now. However, according to Michael Montgomery, chief of the Office of AIDS in the California Department of Health Services, "We're in a new danger that rates of infection are rising again."
In San Francisco's Tenderloin district, HIV affects homeless gay men with mental illness, sex workers, and drug users. Sex workers in Oakland, inmates in San Quentin, drug users in Santa Cruz, and migrant farm workers in San Diego County have also been affected.
HIV is one of a collection of chronic problems linked by poverty. More than three-fourths of 71 patients who died last year in treatment at the University of California-San Francisco's Positive Health Program also struggled with substance abuse and marginal housing, according to Diane Jones, an AIDS nurse. "It is poor people who are predominantly dying," Jones said.
Dr. Barry Zevin of the Tenderloin's Tom Waddell Health Center said poor patients seek care only when they are very sick; many also suffer from hepatitis C or other infections. "Like many other areas of medicine, it is communities of poverty where the burden of disease lives," Zevin said. "With treatment, they can have equally as good outcomes as other populations."
Contra Costa Times
06.05.06; Lisa M. Krieger
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.