Oakland businesses encourage HIV prevention

June 1, 2010 9:24:50 PM PDT
Oakland wants other cities to follow its lead when it comes to HIV prevention. Tuesday, some local businesses began offering customers and their employees condoms, spreading the word on prevention.

One participating business is B/M Auto Collision, an auto body repair shop. Luis del Toro, whose father owns the shop, said they decided to participate in the campaign after one of their employees was recently diagnosed with HIV.

"We want to take the extra step to say we care about him and the community," del Toro said.

More than 50 small businesses along the Fruitvale-International Boulevard corridor have also vowed to put up HIV prevention signs. It is all part of a campaign to include local corporations and businesses in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

This joint effort is expected to serve as a model for other cities. Currently, Oakland has the highest number of new HIV infections in Alameda County.

"Sixty-five to 70 percent of the epidemic that is in Alameda County is in the city of Oakland," said Dr. Marsha Martin, head of Get Screened Oakland. Her group focuses on public health and is behind the campaign.

This is the first phase of the campaign. The plan is to expand citywide.

Walgreens employees helped distribute the condoms and informational materials to the smaller businesses Tuesday. Walgreens, and six other local corporations, including Chevron, are part of the campaign.

Get Screened Oakland will also provide their testing vans to local businesses to have employees tested.

Steve Chase is a Walgreens regional manager. He was diagnosed with AIDS 14 years ago.

"I see an end to it when there is a cure for HIV," he said.


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