San Francisco Launching Program To Identify New HIV Infections Within Two to Three Months
San Francisco this month will launch a two-year pilot program to identify new HIV infections soon after they occur, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. This program is the first of its kind in the U.S. and aims to reduce the number of new cases in the city by half by 2015. According to the Chronicle, about half of all new infections are thought to occur during the two to three-month period after infection, when HIV viral loads are at their highest. "The virus gets in your body and starts to replicate at a very high rate before the natural immune responses of your body start to mobilize," Mark Cloutier, CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said.
The testing and counseling program will take place at Magnet, a community health center for men who have sex with men. Clients who report recent, high-risk behavior will be given the option of taking a viral ribonucleic acid test -- to identify an acute infection -- and will be encouraged to inform their partners. During the two weeks it takes to receive test results, clients receive counseling on safer-sex practices, Magnet Director Steve Gibson said. HIV testing also will be expanded throughout the city, with one of the goals being to reach black MSM. "The house is on fire for African-American men who have with sex with men," Cloutier said.
In addition, the AIDS Foundation is launching a program to raise awareness among transgender women. According to the Chronicle, the cost for both programs is $400,000. About 800 to 1,000 new HIV infections occur annually in San Francisco, and some experts say that new cases often are the result of "prevention fatigue" and the perception that HIV/AIDS now is a treatable, chronic condition. "The same behavior that led to people getting infected can lead to them unknowingly infecting someone else when they have a high viral load," Gibson said, adding, "We've been talking about the San Francisco model of AIDS care for 25 years. We're still trying things first here -- we're using technology to find out who is at greatest risk" (Fernandez, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/9).