California: Easing the Shock of a Grim Diagnosis
February 25, 2004
The Bridge Program for Ventura County uses outreach workers to assist patients newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Many patients speak only Spanish; often, their families do not know they are ill.
Teresa Martinez-Ponce, head of the program, and eight other caseworkers get new patients into treatment as quickly, gently and confidentially as possible. Funded by the state and coordinated by the Early Intervention Section of the state Office of AIDS, and CDC, the program arose as the result of CDC's policy shift that places more emphasis on treating people with the disease than on general prevention programs.
Through 2003, 925 Ventura County residents had been diagnosed with AIDS, according to Lynn Bartosh, head of HIV/AIDS surveillance for the health department. Of those, 535 have died. The state did not require doctors to report HIV until July 2002, so the county does not have exact figures for patients whose condition has not progressed to AIDS. But it does know that last year, 145 HIV/AIDS cases were reported.
Diana Goulet, coordinator of the county's HIV/AIDS services, said the proportion of Latino/Latina AIDS cases remained steady for years at about 33 percent, but began to climb in 2003, as did the number of women with HIV. Men still primarily contract HIV through sex with other men, Bartosh said, while women contract it through heterosexual activity or intravenous drug use.
In addition to the Bridge Program, the county's public health department occasionally sends a van to heavily trafficked spots to encourage people to be tested on-site. Another state-funded program has a licensed marriage and family therapist working intensively with 25 patients at high risk for transmitting HIV.
Historically, Bartosh said, the breakdown of those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS has been 90 percent male and 10 percent female, but the number of women infected has been rising.
Los Angeles Times
02.22.04; Lynne Barnes
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.