June 24, 2009
Local health group Rural Solutions recently hosted a Community HIV/AIDS Education and Action Conference where attendees discussed new data from an HIV/AIDS prevention needs assessment for northeast Colorado. The assessment, which included surveys of people and agencies in a 10-county region, was conducted by Rural Solutions and the Center for Research Strategies (CRS) and funded by the state Department of Public Health and Environment.
State data show at least 54 residents from counties in northeast Colorado have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, and at least 25 residents have died from the disease, said Tara Wass, director of research design and statistics at CRS. The assessment was critical "because you can go into a community with a full-blown prevention program, but if the community is not ready and prepared to implement that program, if they're not ready to hear that message, then that program -- no matter how good it is -- is going to fail," she said.
The review found that HIV prevention services in the region are limited; substantial burdens to HIV testing include confidentiality and cost; there is limited availability and accessibility of mental health and substance abuse services for at-risk persons; and barriers to the provision of prevention services include awareness, funding, training, geography, and confidentiality. About 36.2 percent of 47 health care providers surveyed felt unprepared to talk about HIV/AIDS and 44.7 percent said they felt unprepared to conduct an HIV risk assessment with a patient.
Wass said access to rapid HIV screening could easily be improved, since many hospitals have the ability to administer the tests. Northern Colorado AIDS Program offers rapid testing once a month in Sterling and Fort Morgan. In addition, area hospitals offer standard HIV testing.