Lack of Response To AIDS Epidemic Protested by Marchers

About 50 people marched recently from the Alameda County Administration Building to the federal building and state offices, ending with speeches in front of Oakland City Hall.  At each location they placed coffins and held “die-ins” reminiscent of the early days of the AIDS epidemic in protest of the lack of governmental response.

“I welcome the protests by African American residents in Oakland,” says Dr. Tony Iton, director of the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD), referring to the march that was held Nov. 18.  “The need for increased funding is exceeded only by the need for greater public awareness of the threat of HIV and AIDS in minority communities.  HIV/AIDS prevention funding in California,” he observed, “is a casualty of the state’s ongoing budget crisis.”“We are struggling to make do with increased case loads, funding cuts, and the wide spread public complacency, due in part to the relative success of the HIV chronic care model,” explained ACPHD Office of AIDS Acting Director Kabir Hypolite.  “More funding is needed to provide services to the increased case load that continues to grow in part because of more HIV infections (particularly in the African American and Latino communities) and because patients are living longer.”

Impacted services include ambulatory or outpatient care, case management, oral health, vision, and such support services as emergency housing, food, utilities, and transportation.

This year the Center for Disease Control and Prevention awarded $286,000 to Alameda County for prevention and education activities.  Those funds, earmarked by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, are being directed towards East Oakland residents, particularly African American women, whose HIV infection rates are among the highest in the County.

At risk are African Americans who are disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS; men of all ethnic groups who have sex with men; and sexually active young people ages 13-30 who represent a fast-growing component of new HIV infections (roughly 15 percent).

For more information regarding HIV testing and counseling services contact the Alameda County Health Department’s Office of AIDS Administration at (510) 268-7630.