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Plan To Eradicate HIV/AIDS From San Diego County Advances

Photo by Chris Bjornberg Science Source

HIV particles (red) invade a human immune cell. When HIV is transmitted through sex, only the strongest establish long-term infection.

San Diego Sets Ambitious Goal To Eliminate HIV/AIDS

GUESTS:

Terry Cunningham, chair, HIV Health Services Planning Council

Patrick Loose, director, HIV, STD, and Hepatitis branch, San Diego County Department of Health & Human Services

Transcript

A plan to eradicate or substantially reduce HIV/AIDS in San Diego County within 10 years, including more extensive testing of residents, was approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors in a unanimous vote.

The "Getting to Zero" initiative was introduced by board Chairman Ron Roberts and Supervisor Dave Roberts, who also worked closely with San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria.

"We can, in fact, do this," Gloria said in his address to the board. "We can stop this disease and relegate it to the history books."

Of around 20,000 San Diego County residents who are infected with HIV/AIDS, more than 10 percent are unaware of their HIV status, and about 6,400 who are aware aren't getting the treatment they need, according to health officials.

According to Ron Roberts' office, testing at county-funded health clinics sometimes finds cases in which the patient is unaware they have HIV. A goal of the county plan will be to check area residents for HIV/AIDS as part of routine testing for diseases.

"HIV/AIDS continues to be a major threat, with one new diagnosis each day," he said. "The goal is to get this disease under control ... and ultimately its elimination."

Ron Roberts and Dave Roberts requested in 2014 that a committee be formed to assess the status of HIV in the county. The committee met nine times in 2014 and 2015 before coming up with a list of recommendations.

"The (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has identified HIV as a winnable battle," Dave Roberts said. "We will implement the recommendations of the task force."

The task force issued a list of six recommendations, including developing a media campaign to increase awareness and decrease the stigma of AIDS; make medical care and treatment available to anyone who needs it; and developing culturally appropriate strategies for addressing the needs of women, young adults, African American and Latino gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, transgender people, Native Americans and men who have sex with men over 50.

The vote calls for an implementation plan to carry out the recommendations of the task force and establish a comprehensive policy to align programs and partners throughout the county.

"San Diego has the potential to be the first major metropolitan area to achieve this amazing goal," task force Chairman Terry Cunningham said.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob said with only 20,000 cases in a county of more than three million people, testing everyone is not necessary.

"It's an ambitious goal to stamp it out completely," Jacob said. "The focus should be on high-risk individuals."

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