City anticipates new focus on HIV 

With one of the nation’s largest populations of gay men, San Francisco expects to greatly benefit from President Barack Obama’s new national strategy to help drastically reduce the number of HIV infections — especially among the black and gay communities, where the disease is most prevalent.

After a year of putting together what will become the nation’s most comprehensive road map to reducing HIV infections, the White House today will unveil its domestic response to HIV and AIDS, with plans to target resources and care to regions where the infection rate is among the highest.

It’s too soon to know how much money San Francisco could get from the redirected sources, as AIDS-awareness leaders are only beginning to sift through the comprehensive plan. But one thing is certain: Obama indicated that health officials need to dedicate more attention to gay and bisexual men, who account for more than 50 percent of new infections
annually.

San Francisco has as many as 1,000 new infections every year, with 87 percent of those being gay men, according to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, a local policy and prevention group. The neighborhoods most affected by HIV are the Castro, Mission and Tenderloin.

“This is a welcome declaration,” said James Loduca, vice president of communications for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “For far too long, these communities have borne the brunt of the domestic AIDS epidemic and it’s high time the federal government recognize it and take steps toward correcting it.”

This new national effort will inject fresh dialogue into the issue of HIV/AIDS, which has affected an estimated 28,114 San Franciscans since the beginning of the epidemic in 1981. San Francisco accounts for 18 percent of all cases in California and
3 percent of cases nationwide. At the end of 2008, there were 15,757 San Franciscans living with HIV/AIDS, according to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

“Public awareness has waned, and the existence of this strategy revitalizes the national response to HIV and AIDS,” said Barbara Kimport, interim CEO for the foundation.

Advocates such as Kimport are eager to see how policymakers implement Obama’s new plan, especially in San Francisco, where HIV testing remains low. Part of Obama’s plan focuses on eliminating the stigma around HIV status in hopes of persuading more people to get tested, Kimport said.

Castro resident Jason Villalobos, who was diagnosed with AIDS in 2005, said he hopes the Obama administration will begin funneling money and resources where they are needed most: in coastal cities like New York, Los Angeles and
San Francisco.

“Some states are disproportionately getting funding from the government, and so this can help concentrate money where it needs to be concentrated, like in San Francisco,” Villalobos said. 

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

 

Devastating disease


1981 Year AIDS epidemic began

1.7 million Americans who’ve been infected with HIV since 1981

21 percent Estimated number of people living with HIV who are undiagnosed

2 California’s national rank in cumulative AIDS cases (surpassed only by New York)

Note: More than two-thirds of all Californians living with HIV reside in Los Angeles County or the Bay Area

Source: San Francisco AIDS Foundation

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Erin Sherbert

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