Fresno, HIV, and You!

As you might have seen, the CDC just released a report that the increase in new HIV cases is relatively stable. According to the new estimates, there were 48,600 new HIV infections in the United States in 2006, 56,000 in 2007, 47,800 in 2008 and 48,100 in 2009. The multi-year incidence estimates allow for a reliable examination of trends over time. They reveal no statistically significant change in HIV incidence overall from 2006 to 2009, with an average of 50,000 for the four-year period.

These numbers are disappointing on their own, but here are a few numbers that hit a little closer to home.

In Fresno county the number of HIV cases has risen to a cumulative 447 ( as of March 31st 2011). What is shocking is that the cumulative number for Fresno county as of December 31st 2010 was 417.

This means that in the first three months of this year, we have had 30 new cases of HIV, and that number is only going to get bigger. The number of new cases in Fresno County jumped by over a hundred from the end of 2009 to the end of 2010, (307 to 417).

Of the 447 reported cases in Fresno, 55% reflect individuals 26-44. If you add in the 83 cases of individuals between the ages of 15 and 24, you see that nearly 80% of those infected in our county are below the age of 45. Surprisingly, the group with the highest rate of infection is the 25-34 year olds with a whooping 161 cases reported. This is troubling because if you are in that age range you grew up hearing about AIDS, knowing about HIV, and should have a basic understanding of the awesome power of condoms to help sex be less risky.

One is tempted to wonder… what can I do to help?

Gay Central Valley and our allies have the opportunity to help make those numbers move in the opposite direction. By helping our community be educated, prepared, and active we can make a difference. Obviously we need to do something… here are a few ideas to help get us started…

Let’s start with education. Let’s spearhead a campaign of sex education aimed at the 15-24 demographic. By working with the local GSAs, youth groups, and holding our own Health Awareness events and workshops, we can spread valuable information.

Another idea… What about a task force of volunteers to go into the clubs and bars on a regular basis to hand out condoms, literature, and support. Bowls of condoms aren’t cutting it; we need to be more active on this front.

Along with that, let’s make the testing process easier for our community. Having one day a month be a testing day at the Community Center would help bring home the point that AIDS comes to you. Letting our community get tested in a friendlier “home turf” sort of place might help people get tested sooner and thus curb the unintended spread. I have talked briefly with Fresno’s Health department. They are looking at mid September to be a perfect time to start a partnership with us in terms of doing this.

Those are just a few ideas… what we need is YOU. What do you think? How can you help? What are some of your ideas in terms of dealing with this problem? HIV is no longer a death sentence, but it is a life shortening condition that can be avoided.

Let’s work together to bring the numbers down.

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