Although much progress has been made in combating the 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 substantial 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 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.[raw]“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.[/raw]
“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.