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Aids Quilt

Cinthia Rodriguez 

El Observador

33 years ago the human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome was discovered, what we now know as HIV/AIDS. In 1981, there was not even a name for the disease. In 1983, Santa Clara County had its first known case and they began their response to the emergency. Including the national effort to get tested. This year, that day is set to June 27.

The county is really interested in delivering the message primarily to the Latino community because for whatever reason they don’t’ really get tested for HIV.

“Let’s keep in mind that in 2010, an estimate of 118,000 Latinos died because of AIDS, this is the national level, this is not a small number, this really indicates that HIV is disproportionately impacting the Latino community,” said Patty Cerrato, specialist health educator, Santa Clara County Public Health. “We all have to take action to get tested, talking with children, friends, keep the theme in mind, get educated about the issue.”

A third of the population with HIV/AIDS is Hispanic. It is a community that is severely affected by this problem. One in five people with HIV do not know they are living with the virus. These people are unknowingly spreading the disease making it important to get tested.

The test is simple, it’s not painful, it is a mouth swab, and the results are ready in 20 minutes. Some of the clinics from Santa Clara County offer free HIV test. For more information, go to put in a zip code and the clinics offering the test will be listed.

“What we’re trying to do is, first mainly decrease the numbers of HIV infections, then, is to improve the quality of life and care for people who are already infected with HIV,” said Cerrato. “We also try to reduce health disparities that are related to increase in HIV cases.”

Some people go without being tested because they lack insurance or are not being informed and sometimes they simply don’t want to ask for an HIV test because this disease is stigmatized. There are clinics where they can get confidential or anonymous testing.

If the results are positive it is better to know at an early stage because people have a better chance of staying healthy and the treatments will also have a greater benefit.

The county has several resources available, such as the program ‘positive connections’ where a social worker helps the person acquire all the necessary services. That includes therapy, nutrition services, counseling, education and medicine. The program does not require knowledge of immigration status. There is also the health trust, another organization that provides the same support.

From 2011 to 2013 in Santa Clara County there have been approximately 125-140 people who have been newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. It once reached a maximum of 340 cases reported and by 1997 for the first time there was a really big reduction due to treatment and medication.

“Gradually people became educated and all such actions and different drug treatment came into peoples’ mind and the risk of contracting the disease is shrinking,” said Cerrato. “I think they have ceased to talk about it because they know how its transmitted, they know how to prevent it, and people are responding to these messages.”

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