Sonoma County has high rate of HIV cases

June 27, 2008 7:19:18 PM PDT
Friday is national HIV Testing Day around the country. Through the years, San Francisco and Alameda counties have had a high incidence of aids cases. But surprisingly, one North Bay County has one of the highest incidence rates in the state.

Even though Sonoma County is miles away from San Francisco, in the 1980s it also fell victim to the AIDS epidemic.

"We continue to have a significant population of homosexuals who live here in Sonoma county. They are not, though, the only face of AIDS," said Taya Levine from Face-to-Face Project.

The Sonoma County Health Department reports half of the women with AIDS here got infected through their male partner, and 39 percent contracted the disease through intravenous drug use.

Also, Latinos account for about 20 percent of new cases.

Because of that, Sonoma County has the seventh highest incidence rate of AIDS in all of California.

Of course, that ranking is per capita.

The Health Department has intensified the prevention message by encouraging more people to get tested. Six days a week, two testing vans are stationed at different parts of Santa Rosa, including the predominately Hispanic neighborhoods.

"With bilingual staff and again the same situation, we are there, they know who we are we develop a certain amount of trust," said Eric Acuna from the Sonoma County Health Department.

It's been somewhat of an uphill battle.

"There are cultural differences and social factors the acceptability of acknowledging that one may be having same-sex relations that put them at particular vulnerability," said Levine.

Health advocates want to see more women like Lindsey white got screened using a 20 minute rapid HIV test.

"To be safe, so I know," said White.

White brought a friend to also get tested.

"To prevent spreading it to other people and get it under control," said White's friend.

"We have a good HIV AIDS care system here in Sonoma County. And while there have been 1,200 deaths in Sonoma county from AIDS since 1981 it's by no means a death sentence," said Christopher Bowers from AIDS Face-to-Face Project.


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