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New AIDS Cases More Frequent Among African-American Men
African-American men are seven times more likely to be diagnosed with AIDS than Contra Costa County's population as a whole. (See our Community Health Indicators for Selected Cities and Places in Contra Costa available online at cchealth.org by clicking on Health Data. Epidemiology reports about HIV/AIDS in Contra Costa are also accessible from the Health Data page.) African-American women also are increasingly being infected with HIV, according to our AIDS Program Director Christine Leivermann. Of the HIV positive people the program serves, 46% are African-American and 69% are men, program statistics show. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus that causes AIDS, a severe immunological disorder.
Work Underway But More Needed
The AIDS Program is working on addressing this disparity through HIV prevention education, testing/counseling and community awareness activities. In addition, the program is providing training in cultural competency and related topics to increase HIV prevention skills among other CCHS staff serving the affected communities. Program members agree more still needs to be done to reduce the number of African Americans infected with HIV. Last year, the AIDS Program prioritized target populations, including both African-American men and women. In the coming months they'll be assessing what interventions are still needed and what needs to be done differently.
What We Are Doing
The AIDS Program uses targeted prevention to provide HIV education to populations at risk of HIV infection, such as men who have sex with other men, intravenous drug users and people of color, said Carla Goad, Education and Services Supervisor with the AIDS program. Reasons for the HIV disparity among African- American men may include distrust of the health system, myths about HIV transmission and the fact that early AIDS prevention messages were geared toward white men having sex with other men, Carla said. Program outreach workers help at-risk groups and their partners assess their risk for HIV, understand how to prevent infection and know where to get free testing. "If we can't stop the risky behavior, at least we can help people make some changes to help reduce the risk, such as using condoms and clean needles," Carla said. Contra Costa was the first county in the state to make sure hypodermic needles were available at local pharmacies without a prescription after a new law made it legal. Our county also has a free needle exchange program that allows people to get clean
Testing is another way to help reduce the spread of HIV. The AIDS Program has two Mobile HIV Counseling and Testing Services Clinics that offer free and fast HIV testing throughout the county. Traditional testing required clients to return two weeks later for test results and many of them wouldn't return. Now, a saliva test shows results in 20 minutes. This test is 99% accurate and is followed up by another test to confirm the results if the preliminary test is positive. Testing is followed up by counseling to help keep people who are HIV negative from getting infected and people who are HIV positive from spreading the disease. Carla said her program also is exploring duplication of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention program, "Social Networks a Recruitment Strategy for HIV Counseling and Testing." The training focuses on enlisting community members who are willing to recruit their peers to get tested for HIV. For more information on testing, contact Carla Goad at firstname.lastname@example.org or 925-313-6787.
Working with Community Partners
Collaborating with the community is a priority for CCHS, and the AIDS Program partners with community-based organizations and groups for the planning and delivery of HIV prevention and care services. Community groups that focus on men of color in particular include the Neighborhood House of North Richmond, Familias Unidas in Richmond, Center for Human Development in Pleasant Hill and the Pittsburg Preschool and Community Council. "In planning our response to reduce this disparity, we work with community partners to assess needs of people living with HIV and those at risk for infection, identify local priorities for prevention and care services, and develop meaningful ways to best deliver services to Contra Costa residents," said Rhonda Choi, Senior Health Education Specialist and Planning Coordinator for the Contra Costa HIV/AIDS Consortium. "We provide grants and technical assistance for community-based organizations to deliver culturally appropriate services directly in the community." For more information about the AIDS Program's community partnerships, contact Rhonda Choi at email@example.com or 925-313-6775.
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