California: HIV Clinic Sees More Teens
July 7, 2008
On the heels of recent CDC figures showing a worrisome jump in new HIV cases among young men who have sex with men (MSM), the medical director of a Watts-area clinic confirmed the increase on the ground. In the last 15 months, the OASIS Clinic at the Martin Luther King Jr. Multi-Service Ambulatory Care Center has gone from treating one teenage patient to caring for 47, said Dr. Wilbert C. Jordan.
From 2001 to 2006, CDC said HIV infections among all MSM ages 13-24 rose by 12.4 percent. For young gay blacks, the increase was 14.9 percent, compared with 7.9 percent and 9.4 percent for their Latino and white peers, respectively.
At the OASIS Clinic, many patients are young MSM who were kicked out of their homes for being gay, said Jordan. Some went to West Hollywood, prostituted themselves for food, contracted HIV, and now are back in South Los Angeles, infecting their friends, he said.
"The first wave got infected outside of the community," said Jordan. "The second wave are those getting infected in South-Central."
In areas where high numbers of young black men become homicide victims, the possibility of contracting a chronic disease seems like a normal risk, said Jordan. "These kids are sort of mentally adapted to not be here when they're 30. If you think you're going to be dead by 30 and the disease takes 10 years, it doesn't scare you so much," Jordan said, adding that most of the teens "don't know a damn thing" about HIV/AIDS.
Los Angeles Times
7.06.2008; Mary Engel