Efforts Needed To Increase HIV/AIDS Education, Prevention, Experts, Advocates Say at California Conference
California public health officials and other experts on Wednesday called for new ways to better educate people about HIV/AIDS prevention, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reports. More than 100 Inland, Calif., health care providers, counselors and patients gathered at the Riverside County Department of Public Health's fifth annual Inland Empire HIV/AIDS Conference, which included discussions on HIV/AIDS education, treatment and prevention. The Rev. Christoph Sandoval during his keynote address said that he is concerned education messages about prevention could continue to suffer because of funding cuts to public health departments and other agencies during the current economic downturn. Sandoval said, "We have to make sure the power of prevention stays powerful." He added, "We have lost our activism. We have to put the issue back on the radar."
Victoria Jauregui Burns, chief of Riverside County's HIV/AIDS program, said that funding issues make prevention strategies difficult to implement. The Inland area receives about $10 million annually for HIV/AIDS treatment, compared with about $1 million for prevention. Burns said that prevention could be as easy as speaking with physicians about HIV/AIDS during examinations. She said that people "can talk to their doctors all the time." Burns said that many doctors do not discuss HIV/AIDS or other issues if they are not a patient's main health concern during an appointment, adding that that is "when we need to talk about it."
The Riverside and San Bernardino health departments report that more than 9,000 HIV/AIDS cases have been reported since 1983 in the Inland area. San Bernardino County reported 192 HIV cases and 109 AIDS cases in 2008. Riverside County reported 247 HIV cases and 125 AIDS cases in September 2008, the Press-Enterprise reports. The highest prevalence of the disease has been reported among people between ages 20 to 49, with most cases in the two counties occurring among men.
The Press-Enterprise reports that HIV/AIDS and incarceration, the use of medical marijuana for people living with HIV/AIDS, and religion in HIV/AIDS prevention also were discussed at the conference (Hines, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 3/11).