Nine and a Half Minutes

We are now in the 21st Century and embarking on a new decade and you would think that twenty eight years after HIV/AIDS reared its ugly head in the United States and began ravaging our communities, killing and infecting our partners, lovers, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, parents and grandparents, things would be moving in the right direction, with treatment, prevention and healthcare for our communities..But are we?

Globally more than 40 million people are living with HIV and over 2.1 million people have already died of AIDS. This is not a disease that affects “those people”, it is a disease that affects ALL people; the young teenage couple that feels invincible, the two guys in their twenties who think it can’t happen to me it happened to all those old guys in the eighties, the husband and wife, the older retired singles, the widowers, it can happen to all of us. This virus does not discriminate, the one and ONLY criteria on who get’s it is that of being HUMAN!

In the United States it is estimated that more than 1.7 million people have been infected with HIV and 25% of those infected don’t even know it.

We have one quarter of the infected population spreading the HIV virus unknowingly to others and fuelling this epidemic such that last year at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, The Centers for Disease Control actually adjusted the annual infection rates in the United States from 46,000 new infections annually to 50,000 new infections annually.

In March of this year a shocking study came out of Washington DC that said that the HIV/AIDS rate in the Washington DC is 3% or (2,984 residents per 100,00). This rate is comparable to some countries in Sub Saharan Africa. So are we making headway? Here we have such a high incidence right under the noses of our politicians, right on the steps of the White House and Congress where the law is written for the Ryan White Care Act, where so many challenge the Act and want to decrease funding instead if increasing it.

What about California and more specifically our own backyard in Orange County? In California the cumulative AIDS cases through April 2009 is 153,901 with 67,505 (44%) living cases, 56% of people have already died. The cumulative HIV cases in California are 36,412 with 35,307 (97%) living cases. In Orange County the cumulative AIDS cases through April 2009 is 7,489 with 3,890 (52%) living cases, 48% of people have already died. The cumulative HIV cases in Orange County are 2,710 with 2,601 (97%) living cases. Laguna Beach has one of the highest per capita incidences of HIV/AIDS in the United States with over 500 of its residents already dying of AIDS.

This year as California plummeted deep into its budget and financial crisis, the lives of many Californians have been put in jeopardy. Just when we thought that HIV/AIDS funding may be unscathed somewhat or at least cut in minimal ways, Governor Schwarzenegger with the stroke of his pen “terminated” and drew lines through critical HIV/AIDS funding for our State and County. This action by the Governor eliminated $85 million in HIV/AIDS funding from the general fund. This has resulted in cutbacks of critical services of HIV care which includes reductions in medical care, therapeutic drug monitoring, medical case management, elimination of 80% of the money for HIV prevention and reduction in funds for HIV surveillance.

We have made great strides in HIV treatment strategies and those infected and in care are able to be managed, and many people do very well living with HIV, but the actions of our legislature have put our health in jeopardy by having to decrease so many crucial HIV services, many may not get tested, get into medical care and the virus will continue to spread. The cuts in funding will ultimately cost the State more money in the end.

EVERY NINE AND A HALF MINUTES SOMEONE GETS INFECTED WITH HIV. LETS NOT WASTE ANY MORE TIME, LETS STOP IT NOW BEFORE OUR NINE AND A HALF MINUTES IS UP!