Michigan: Lansing Area AIDS Network Grows, Evolves With the Times
January 20, 2011
Within the last 25 years, the Lansing Area AIDS Network grew from a small planning group convened at El Azteco restaurant into a non-profit with 11 full-time employees, a bimonthly food pantry, and an $825,000 budget. LAAN now helps more than 300 local people living with HIV/AIDS. Low-income clients also receive assistance with medical co-pays, bus passes, and other services.
"Back in 1985 or '86, it's sad to say most AIDS organizations were really helping people at the end of their life," said LAAN Executive Director Jacob Distel. "The major shift we've had is switching from an agency that basically helps people prepare to die to helping people live with the disease."
LAAN has assisted more than 1,000 people since it was founded. Distel notes that number continues to grow, with 43 more people helped last year than the previous year. Likewise, the number of HIV/AIDS cases in Ingham County has steadily increased. Two years ago, the county recorded 414 cases of HIV/AIDS, and now that number is 441, according to Vennishia Smith, Ingham County Health Department HIV/STD prevention coordinator.
"We've always had a high prevalence rate," said Smith. "Right now we are tied with Kent County for the second-highest prevalence rate [in the state]." Smith credits the increase to a greater willingness to be tested for HIV using a rapid test that provides results in 20 minutes versus a previous wait time of up to two weeks.
Unfortunately, the percentage of infected teens is also rising. Distel fears the results of a funding gap for prevention: "When prevention dollars go down, what's going to follow is higher instance rates," he said.
Lansing State Journal
12.28.2010; Laura Misjak
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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