California: County's HIV/AIDS Efforts Criticized
June 30, 2010
The HIV-related deaths of 12 Santa Clara County residents in the current fiscal year has advocates and public health officials reassessing the county's efforts to fight the epidemic.
The county is "not doing a good job in testing, and we're certainly not doing enough in the prevention or outreach education work that other communities have done," said Fred Ferrer, CEO of the Health Trust, a provider of nonmedical services to those with HIV/AIDS.
The county's list of HIV outreach efforts includes health fairs, community events, and needle-exchange programs. It also partners with faith-based groups. In the past year, the state reduced funding for HIV prevention and care in Santa Clara County by $1.2 million.
"If we don't take a serious look at how we do AIDS education in the schools, how we're doing it in the bars, in the clubs, how it has really become normative, then we're going to just pay for it later," Ferrer said.
"You have to go to high-risk communities. We have so many different communities that it takes an effort to reach those," said county Public Health Officer Marty Fenstersheib. "The dollars are so limited, you have to target them."
Populations targeted in the county's outreach efforts include African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos.
In 2008, almost 2,700 people in Santa Clara County were HIV positive, a figure that does not include those who are unaware of their status. Both Health Trust and county officials bemoan the fact they do not have more funds to send speakers to schools and community organizations to talk about HIV prevention.
"If we can prevent anyone from getting infected with HIV and contain it, we can stop the spread. We can eradicate this virus," said AIDS activist Robert Smart.
San Jose Mercury News
06.26.2010; Julie Chang
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.
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