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New initiative aims to stop HIV infections in San Diego County

A new HIV case is diagnosed in the region every 18 hours.

The County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved an initiative to get the number of new HIV infections in San Diego to zero. With the vote, the Board directed the County Health and Human Services Agency to begin implementing the Getting to Zero initiative and put an end to the epidemic in the region.

“Everyone must know their HIV status. And secondly, those diagnosed with the disease must be in care and remain in care,” said Chairman Ron Roberts, who, along with Supervisor Dave Roberts, brought the initiative to the board. “Together we can relegate HIV/AIDS to the pages of the history books.”

Substantial progress has been made in addressing the HIV epidemic in San Diego County. New HIV diagnoses have declined by more than 60 percent in the past 20 years, from the all-time high of 1,314 in 1990 to 481 in 2014. Deaths of people infected with HIV have also dramatically declined in San Diego County, from 749 in 1994 to 112 in 2014.

However, HIV is still a major public health challenge in in the region. Currently, about 20,000 people in the region are living with HIV. According to the Health and Human Services Agency, one in 10 San Diegans infected with HIV – about 2,300 people – don’t know it. Another 6,400 people are aware they are HIV positive but are not receiving treatment.

The Getting to Zero initiative supports the Live Well San Diego vision by improving the delivery of HIV prevention programs, testing, and treatment and supporting activities to end the HIV epidemic in San Diego County. Getting to Zero contains six general recommendations for achieving an end to the HIV epidemic in San Diego:

  1.  Increase awareness of HIV
  2.  Engage the health care systems
  3.  Implement post-exposure and pre-exposure prophylaxis interventions
  4.  Use data to improve outcomes
  5.  Address disproportionalities
  6. Develop policies to that support getting to zero

Advances in medication and treatment have helped people with AIDS to live longer, healthier lives. About 15,000 San Diego County residents have been diagnosed with AIDS since the early 1980s. Of those, 7,221 are still alive.

“(HIV) is a winnable battle and working with the city (of San Diego) we are going to win this battle,” said Supervisor Dave Roberts. “This implementation plan is a step in the right direction.”

For more information about HIV and AIDS in San Diego County, visit the County of San Diego HIV, STD, and Hepatitis Branch website.