San Francisco this month will launch a two-year pilot program to identify new HIV infections soon after they occur, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. This program is the first of its kind in the U.S. and aims to reduce the number of new cases in the city by half. According to the Chronicle, about half of all new infections are thought to occur during the two to three-month period after infection, when HIV viral loads are at their highest. "The virus gets in your body and starts to replicate at a very high rate before the natural immune responses of your body start to mobilize," Mark Cloutier, CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said.
The testing and counseling program will take place at Magnet, a community health center for men who have sex with men. Clients who report recent, high-risk behavior will be given the option of taking a viral ribonucleic acid test -- to identify an acute infection -- and will be encouraged to inform their partners. During the two weeks it takes to receive test results, clients receive counseling on safer-sex practices, Magnet Director Steve Gibson said. HIV testing also will be expanded throughout the city, with one of the goals being to reach black MSM. "The house is on fire for African-American men who have with sex with men," Cloutier said.
In addition, the AIDS Foundation is launching a program to raise awareness among transgender women. According to the Chronicle, the cost for both programs is $400,000. About 800 to 1,000 new HIV infections occur annually in San Francisco, and some experts say that new cases often are the result of "prevention fatigue" and the perception that HIV/AIDS now is a treatable, chronic condition. "The same behavior that led to people getting infected can lead to them unknowingly infecting someone else when they have a high viral load," Gibson said, adding, "We've been talking about the San Francisco model of AIDS care for 25 years. We're still trying things first here -- we're using technology to find out who is at greatest risk" (Fernandez, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/9).
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Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2009 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.