BERKELEY: Does Rise in HIV Indicate Outreach Success?
AIDS workers in Berkeley report that the number of HIV infections has risen 40% in the past year -- especially among Latinos, the Contra Costa Times reports. Some officials, however, view the data as proof of "success in reaching new groups for testing." City HIV/AIDS coordinator LeRoy Blea said the results also hint at a "big explosion" in HIV among Latinos and support pre-existing research showing AIDS to be a "silent threat" to this community. Blea credits a recent push by health organizations to extend services into poor and minority neighborhoods, saying, "We're finally reaching some of the people we've never reached in the first place." But Blea remains concerned that "latino machismo may lead homosexual men to shun getting tested."
This year, California earmarked $2.6 million in state funds to help "reach farther into disenfranchised communities." Also, a new test that collects tissue from the gums using a miniature toothbrush has alleviated some fears over drawing blood with needles. But AIDS specialists are alarmed by a growing misconception that AIDS is "over" because of a decline in the number of AIDS deaths. They worry that complacency will result in a resurgence of needle sharing among drug users and unprotected sex, and will cause many to disregard the urgency for testing despite a growing "pool of infection" (Ferris, Contra Costa Times, 11/6).