A Plan of Action for Combating HIV

Last year, the voter mandate requiring porn actors to wear condoms when filming all but monopolized the public discussion about HIV and AIDS. Yet the rate of infection outside the porn industry far outstrips that within it, and the devastating consequences are affecting our most vulnerable population: young people.

In Los Angeles County, 25 percent of new HIV infections are happening to people between the ages 13-24.  Furthermore, 60 percent of these youth do not even know they are infected.  Among African-American males ages 15-29 who are infected, a staggering 91 percent do not know they are carrying the virus that causes HIV.  This  ignorance  has deadly repercussions —  not only for  youth who are becoming sexually active and who  may not know how HIV is transmitted, but also for women  in  relationships with men who, unbeknownst to them, also are having sex with men.

These facts prompted Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas to convene an HIV Roundtable  that brought together clinicians, professors, public health officials and researchers to discuss a proposed 2013 Strategic Plan to combat HIV/AIDS in the Second District.

“The rates of HIV contraction both in the county and the Second District are dismal,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas.  “We must address this issue head on by educating our youth and other highly affected groups, promoting testing and tackling the stigma that is too often attached to this issue. This is a healthcare crisis that needs to be taken very seriously.”

Among the ideas discussed during the roundtable is the plan to host a youth prevention conference in the Second District, with a series of speakers, panel discussions and some form of entertainment to begin educating and targeting this population.

Another key component of the strategic plan is to continue educating ministers and first ladies at local churches on HIV infection and prevention. Because this epidemic is affecting so many African American males who have sex with men, an essential part of the strategic plan includes addressing the issue of homophobia in order to reach these men and help them get the care that they need.

Dr. Wilbert Jordan, Medical Director of the Oasis Clinic noted that almost half of the teens he sees–46 percent of  adolescent clients–become infected after being  kicked out of home , saying their “moms  can’t  handle  their sexuality.”

“If   black  mothers  can  love  their sons  who are imprisoned  for  murdering  someone, they  should  be encouraged  to love their  kids  who  like someone of the same  sex,” Jordan  said.

The discussion is the first of many. The goal of the strategic plan is to promote policy that will have a lasting impact.

“I’m hoping to begin a discussion on this mission,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “I ask that we can come together to discuss this large issue from a broader perspective than our individual clinics and agencies. This group needs to stay focused and on task.”

Click here to download the PowerPoint presentation.

Combating HIV and AIDS in Los Angeles County

While much progress has been made in combating the Human Immune Deficiency Virus (HIV) and AIDS since it surfaced more than 30 years ago, it is still ravaging communities in Los Angeles County.

Los Angeles County has surpassed San Francisco as the hardest hit area on the West Coast. With more than 59,000 people infected with HIV and as many as 12,800 who are HIV-positive but don’t know it, Los Angeles ranks among the highest number of cases in the country.

It is an illness that continues to disproportionately impact predominantly low income, less educated Americans who are black and Latino. All the more alarming, roughly a third of all new HIV infections in Los Angeles County occur in youth ages 13-24 and 60 percent of these youth do not know the status of their infection.

The problem is so big that the White House has designated an office of National AIDS Policy to reduce the number of new infections by 25 percent by 2015 and to significantly increase education efforts so that fewer people contract the virus and more people are aware of their status.

As part of this effort, the White House’s Office on National AIDS Policy along with the Los Angeles County Commission on HIV recently held a forum on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.  Grant Colfax, Director of the White House Office of AIDS Policy, noted that there needs to be a greater effort to keep infected individuals in care in order to lower the chances that a person will become very sick and/or pass on the infection. The event brought together researchers, advocates, outreach workers, healthcare workers and health care providers to try to find solutions to the problem.  Click here to download the PowerPoint presentation.

“We must work together to create ground-breaking strategies to combat this infection as well as to combat the underlying social, economic, and demographic factors that increase certain people’s risk of contracting HIV,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who attended the event. Chairman Ridley-Thomas called for a cultural shift in thinking about combating HIV/AIDS. He mentioned his work with the Ministers and First Ladies of various churches in the Second District. This innovative partnership will allow HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) related materials to be disseminated throughout each church’s congregation, reaching people who may have had little awareness or access to information about HIV/AIDS and STI’s. He spoke about the efforts of the Second District to combat stigma, discrimination, and inequalities suffered by people with the infection. “HIV-positive people still struggle to obtain and keep housing due to unfair treatment and incarcerated populations often do not receive adequate HIV treatment and care,” he noted. This effort includes not only the Board of Supervisors but also the Department of Public Health, the Department of Health Services, the HIV Commission and County providers all working together to combat HIV/AIDS.

“The National HIV/AIDS Strategy provides us with a framework to more effectively combat these illnesses,” said the Supervisor. “This partnership as well as the strong ties with community providers allows for increased access to care to every individual while we work together to reduce HIV-related health disparities.”

For more information, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website has many helpful articles and resources. If there are any questions regarding HIV/AIDS services in Los Angeles County, please visit the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Division of HIV and STD Programs website: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/aids/index.htm. In addition, here is the link on the peer to peer awareness campaign led students and the Los Angeles Unified School District (Project U): http://www.projectula.org/projectula-home.aspx.

 

Free STD Testing Kiosk Moves to Trade Tech

The county’s first sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing kiosk in a college setting is now available at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. The digital tablet and touch-screen kiosk was installed in the student health center at Elm Hall to make STD home testing kits more widely and immediately available. In the first four hours of its launch, the kiosk at Trade-Technical College had 20 orders, reinforcing a message of empowerment to women who want to find out about their health and wellbeing in an easy and reliable manner. The kiosk is part of a larger information and testing program spearheaded by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas to help increase awareness about sexually transmitted diseases. The Second Supervisorial district has the largest rates of in his district, where STDs like Chlamydia and gonorrhea. The statistics are stark. In 2010, there were 20,337 Chlamydia cases and 2,136 gonorrhea cases reported in females ages 15-24. The kiosk is part of the Los Angeles County Department of HIV And STD Programs award-winning “I Know” home test kit program launched in 2009. New digital tablets and touch-screen kiosks now make home testing kits more widely and immediately available to women. Women who use the kiosks or digital tablets to order a kit are able to receive their kit on the spot, without waiting for it to arrive by mail. All “I Know” materials and the website are available in both English and Spanish, and there is no cost to use the home testing program. The kiosk enables secure access to the program’s website to record kit orders, so that women can later obtain their results from the program website, or by calling a toll-free number. Women throughout the Ccounty will be continue to be able to order kits from the www.DontThinkKnow.org website, or by calling the County STD Program’s toll-free hotline number, 1-800-758-0880, to have test kits sent to them by mail. “We must endeavor to reduce these rates of infection,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “Education and empowerment are essential tools to addressing this problem.” Young African American and Latina women bear a disproportionate burden from these infections. In 2010, there were 19,831 reported cases of Chlamydia and 2,481 reported cases of gonorrhea among African American and Latina women. These totals represent more than two-thirds of all reported female Chlamydia cases, and more than 72% of all reported female gonorrhea cases, in 2010. The burden of these infections is especially heavy on younger African American and Latina women ages 15-24, who had roughly 7 in 10 of all Chlamydia and Gonorrhea cases among African American and Latina women. Chlamydia rates are much higher for young African American and Latina women; and Gonorrhea rates are much higher among African American women. Among Latinas ages 20-24, Chlamydia rates (cases per 100,000 population) are nearly double that of white women of the same age; among African American women 20-24, the rate exceeds six times that of whites. The disparity is even greater in the Gonorrhea rate for African American women ages 20-24, which is more than nine times that of whites, and nearly twelve times that of Latinas. These disparities are similar among 15-19 year-olds. “This program has been incredibly successful in promoting testing and finding STD cases,” said the Dr. Peter Kerndt, former STD Program Director at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, noting that few clinics can show a comparable rate of case detection, and that none can perform testing for such a broad cross-section of at-risk women. In addition, according to Dr. Kerndt, not all women can or will access a clinic, due to lack of transportation, privacy fears, or the lack of symptoms typical of these STDs. The program has proved both popular and effective. Well over 6,000 kits have been ordered through the program since its launch in June 2009. In 2012, a total of 1,179 specimens were sent to the Public Health Lab through the program; and 9.4% of testable specimens were positive for either Chlamydia or gonorrhea – a case-detection rate that exceeds that of many clinics serving young women. The program received a National Association of Counties achievement award in 2010, and has sparked interest in many other jurisdictions. In addition, an evaluation study of the “I Know” media campaign in 2009 found that women who had seen the campaign were 1.5 times more likely to have been tested for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea in the past six months. Plans are underway to expand the program to three other California counties in 2013. For more information about the “I Know” program, click here.

The Second District STD Control Plan

SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES (STD)

We as adults are failing our youth if we don’t provide them with the proper tools to evaluate their choices so that they are able to make the best decisions.  We are also failing our young people if we don’t adequately convey an understanding that they are a big part of the society, that they are vital to the structure of our communities and that their wellbeing is of utmost importance. We need an approach that goes beyond graphs, statistics, maps and data to provide direction to our youth.

The Second District STD Control Plan embraces a comprehensive community-engaged strategy that seeks to give youth the best available guidance and tools to enable them to make better choices regarding their physical, mental and sexual health. A clinical approach alone will not be effective in preventing STD without addressing the underlying issues of self-worth and self-respect.  Through this initiative, we want to enable the youth to value themselves enough to take action to protect themselves from high-risk behaviors.

The Second District STD Control Plan incorporates six components:

  • Community Engagement
  • Expanded Screening
  • Social Marketing
  • Case Management
  • School Level Programs
  • Public Relations

The STD Community Advisory Group (CAG) meetings are held with stakeholders, service providers and community leaders.  Below are the agendas and the meeting minutes for the past meetings.

 

Second District STD Control Plan Community Stakeholder Group 2012 Meeting Agendas and Minutes: