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Non-Medical HIV Worker Flunk Test on Knowledge of Virus

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Phill Wilson (Courtesy Photo)

Phill Wilson (Courtesy Photo)

By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Most non-medical HIV health care workers earned a “D” when surveyed on the science and treatment of the virus, according to a new report released this week by the Black AIDS Institute.

While 70 percent of the HIV workers scored below 70 percent or the equivalent of an academic “D” grade, just 4 percent earned an “A,” the report said that “The average score on treatment-related questions was 56%, or an ‘F.’”

The Black AIDS Institute (BAI), a national HIV/AIDS think tank focused solely on Black people, surveyed more than 3,600 non-medical health care workers from AIDS service organizations, community-based groups and state and local health departments, “making it the largest ever knowledge assessment of the HIV/AIDS workforce and the first time that anyone looked at the level of science and treatment knowledge in the workforce,” said Phill Wilson, the president and CEO of the Institute.

More than 70 percent of the workers polled said that their organization offered prevention services, 62 percent provided treatment and prevention education, while nearly 50 percent offered treatment and care.

“Black-serving organizations represented the majority (56%) of organizations represented in the survey, with nearly one in three organizations serving people living with HIV (35%) and men who have sex with men (32%),” stated the report. “Seventy-five percent of participants were employees, 12% were consultants, and 13% were volunteers.”

Respondents from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Missouri recorded the highest average scores and North Carolina, Georgia and Florida recorded the lowest scores.

“HIV has evolved over time and today some of the main tools that we use to fight HIV are biomedical tools,” said Wilson. “In order to use those tools you have to have a competency in science and treatment.”

Although better tools exist today, health care professionals who work in the HIV/AIDS field worry that they may not have the labor force skilled enough to properly use those tools.

With a new infection rate that is eight times the new infection rate for Whites, Blacks account for 44 percent of all new infections in adolescents and adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hispanics account for 21 percent of new infections.

Despite increased exposure to the effects of the AIDS epidemic, Black and Hispanic HIV health care workers tested lower than their White peers on the survey.

“This is true even after controlling for education, region of residence, time working in the AIDS field, or any other variable taken into account in the survey,” stated the report.

Wilson said that despite the disproportionate rate of HIV infections among Blacks and Latinos, HIV/AIDS awareness has historically been lower and the stigma associated with the disease has been higher in both communities.

“African Americans and Hispanic respondents may be entering the HIV field with a lower knowledge base concerning HIV/AIDS which increases the need for having training when bringing new staff on board,” said Wilson.

Wilson continued: “We do know that there are elevated levels of stigma in the Black and Latino communities around HIV. People who are entering the field who are Black and Latino are coming into the field with some of that baggage and that may influence their knowledge.”

The stigma is connected to knowledge, Wilson added, and when you increase knowledge you can reduce the stigma.

“If the non-medical healthcare providers and the outreach workers don’t have a high enough level of literacy, they are not equipped to fight the conspiracy theories that are pervasive in our community,” said Wilson. “The more knowledge they have the better equipped they are to address those issues that are in our community.”

Wilson said as more and more people get treatment and have a positive response to the treatment, the stigma will go down.

“This is not the AIDS epidemic of 1986, or 1996 or even 2000,” said Wilson. “Too many people, particularly in our community, still have memories of the old ways that you got tested where there was blood drawn and you had to wait a week or 10 days. Today, you can get an HIV test for free, there’s not necessarily any blood, it can be an oral swab or a finger prick, you can get the results back in a minute; you can even get the results in the comfort of your own home.”

The use of biomedical prevention tools has also emerged.

“In 2011, the HIV prevention enterprise dramatically changed with the release of results from the HPTN 052 trial, which found that antiretroviral therapy reduced the risk of sexual HIV transmission by 96 percent,” the report explained. “The implications of this landmark study were immediately apparent. The very drugs that have transformed HIV infection from an automatic death sentence to one that is often chronic and manageable also have the potential to stop the epidemic in its tracks.”

Wilson said that the most exciting recent developments in the field are the new scientific biomedical prevention tools.

“We now have the ability to potentially reduce HIV transmission by 96 percent,” said Wilson. “What that requires is for us to help people living with HIV to get linked, to care to stay in care and to reach viral suppression.”

Wilson noted that the survey is not an overall evaluation of the knowledge of the workforce, just an analysis of the science and treatment knowledge of the workforce.

“Treatment as prevention is new,” said Wilson. “[Pre-exposure prophalaxis] is new. A lot of these biomedical interventions have only come onboard over the last few years.We’re not saying that [HIV health care workers] have low knowledge about everything, they just have a low knowledge in this particular area.”

Wilson said that it’s important that non-medical health care workers receive training on the current HIV science and treatment tools, because Black people are disproportionately impacted by HIV and that Blacks are also the ones who are going to be disproportionately getting their HIV health care from clinicians who are not HIV specialists.

As more people gain access to health care under the Affordable Care Act, including people who are infected with HIV and those suffering from AIDS-related diseases, health care professionals have to evolve to meet the growing needs of the new consumers.

“We are calling for a national push for increased science and treatment knowledge in the HIV workforce,” said Wilson. “Because that is what it’s going to take to end the AIDS epidemic.”

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Bay Area

Bay Area Health Officers Urge Public to Take Precautions as COVID-19 Levels Rise

The Bay Area now has California’s highest COVID-19 infection rates, fueled by highly contagious Omicron subvariants. Bay Area counties are seeing increases in reported cases, levels of virus in wastewater, and hospitalizations. Actual case rates are higher than those reported because of widespread use of home tests.

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Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County Public Health Officer.
Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County Public Health Officer.

Courtesy of Marin County

Twelve Bay Area health officers are emphasizing the importance of taking safety precautions, including continued masking indoors, as the region experiences a new swell of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

The Bay Area now has California’s highest COVID-19 infection rates, fueled by highly contagious Omicron subvariants. Bay Area counties are seeing increases in reported cases, levels of virus in wastewater, and hospitalizations. Actual case rates are higher than those reported because of widespread use of home tests.

The health officers reiterate their continued, strong support for people to mask up indoors, keep tests handy, and ensure they are up to date on vaccinations by getting boosters when eligible.

“As cases rise around us, it’s important to understand that more people around you are likely infected or have been exposed,” said Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis. “Masks are an easy tool you can use to protect yourself and lower your risk of infection.”

The grim milestone of 1 million deaths from COVID-19 in the United States, reached earlier this week, underscores the need for continued vigilance against the virus.

Although not required, masking is strongly recommended by the California Department of Public Health for most public indoor settings, and health officials say wearing higher-quality masks (N95/KN95 or snug-fitting surgical masks) indoors is a wise choice. Vaccines remain the best protection against severe disease and death from COVID-19.

Health officials say people should also stay home and get tested right away if they feel sick. Officials also encourage getting tested after potential exposure and limiting large gatherings to well ventilated spaces or outdoors. For those more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 infection, medications are available that can reduce chances of severe illness and death. Talk with a health care provider right away if a test comes back positive.

This statement has been endorsed by health officers from the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma as well as the City of Berkeley.

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Bay Area

Multiple Services Offered at June 1 County Event

Clean Slate is a new community-minded collaboration of the County’s justice-oriented departments plus key support from Health and Human Services. The motivation was to bring services from the Civic Center to the people who might need them the most. The program helps ensure that every resident can succeed following a criminal conviction by informing them about job training, government benefits, and basic health care needs.

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Clean Slate program supporters at Civic Center include (from left) Assistant DA Otis Bruce Jr., Health and Human Services Director Benita McLarin, Probation Chief Marlon Washington, Health and Human Services Division Director D’Angelo Paillet, DA Lori Frugoli, and Public Defender David Joseph Sutton.
Clean Slate program supporters at Civic Center include (from left) Assistant DA Otis Bruce Jr., Health and Human Services Director Benita McLarin, Probation Chief Marlon Washington, Health and Human Services Division Director D’Angelo Paillet, DA Lori Frugoli, and Public Defender David Joseph Sutton.

Clean Slate program to address justice-related & health needs in San Rafael

Courtesy of Marin County

Bringing assistance directly to Marin County residents in their own neighborhood is the idea behind the Clean Slate program, which made a successful debut in February in Marin City. This time, an array of services from four County of Marin departments will be available Wednesday, June 1, at the Multicultural Center of Marin in San Rafael.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be on hand for assistance with public benefits such as Medi-Cal, CalFresh food assistance, CalWORKS services, employment training, and general financial relief for families. COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots will be available as well.

People in need of help with justice-related tasks such as clearing one’s record, terminating one’s probation, or dismissing a conviction will be able to walk in with documentation and receive help from the Public Defender’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, or the Probation Department.

The walk-in event will be set up from 4-7 p.m. at the Multicultural Center of Marin, 709 5th Avenue, in San Rafael.

Clean Slate is a new community-minded collaboration of the County’s justice-oriented departments plus key support from Health and Human Services. The motivation was to bring services from the Civic Center to the people who might need them the most. The program helps ensure that every resident can succeed following a criminal conviction by informing them about job training, government benefits, and basic health care needs.

“I believe that this collaboration really shows the commitment of each of the departments to help remove barriers to self-sufficiency and have a presence in the community,” said D’Angelo Paillet, HHS Social Services Director.

Those seeking law-related help are asked to bring all relevant documents with them, including past correspondences and state Department of Justice records. Each participating department will have Spanish translators on hand to help with health or immigration-related relief.

For questions about the event related to legal services, contact the Public Defender’s Office at (473) 473-6321. For health-related questions, contact Health and Human Services at (415) 473-3350.

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Activism

Council Unanimously Declares Oakland a Pro-Choice Sanctuary City

Said Council President Sheng Thao: “The passage of this resolution makes Oakland the first City in California to declare itself a Sanctuary City for Abortion Access and is the first step we will be taking to expand abortion access to anyone who needs it. Healthcare is a human right, and the City of Oakland stands firmly behind anyone exercising their right to reproductive care.

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Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, Council President Pro Tem Sheng Thao and council President Nikki Fortunato-Bas. (Photos: City of Oakland/oakland.gov)
Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, Council President Pro Tem Sheng Thao and council President Nikki Fortunato-Bas. (Photos: City of Oakland/oakland.gov)

By Post Staff

The Oakland City Council unanimously passed a resolution declaring Oakland a Pro-Choice sanctuary city, backed by Council President Pro Tem Sheng Thao, Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, Council President Nikki Forunato Bas, as well as Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice California, and Assemblymember Mia Bonta.

This resolution was passed on Tuesday, May 17, introduced by Thao, Bas, and Kaplan. The resolution puts Oakland on record as a city that celebrates abortion-access and reaffirms the city’s support for Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade into federal law, and advocates for more state and county funding to be provided to reproductive care providers in anticipation of an influx of out-of-state patients.

Said Council President Thao: “The passage of this resolution makes Oakland the first City in California to declare itself a Sanctuary City for Abortion Access and is the first step we will be taking to expand abortion access to anyone who needs it. Healthcare is a human right, and the City of Oakland stands firmly behind anyone exercising their right to reproductive care.

“This resolution says to women across the country, who are under attack, that your rights will be protected here.”

Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas said, “With this resolution, Oakland reaffirms loud and clear our fierce commitment to our values of freedom, justice, and honoring each person’s dignity and sovereignty to choose what is healthiest and safest for their body. I am proud to co-author this effort and committed to working with my colleagues and urging other jurisdictions not only to protect abortion access, but to significantly expand the inclusiveness, capacity, and quality of reproductive health services for all who need them in our community.”

Vice Mayor Kaplan said, “Make no mistake, the Supreme Court is threatening to turn back the clock. They are threatening our rights and fundamental liberty. The laws that guarantee the right to reproductive freedom are the same laws that ensure the right to contraception, the right for LGBTQ+ people to be allowed to live and love as we choose, and privacy and racial justice. Let us continue to move forward, not backwards.”

Added Dr. Jessica Hamilton, associate medical director of abortion services for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, “The news of the SCOTUS leak has been heart-wrenching for those of us on the front lines. No patient or physician has ever asked for a politician to be in the exam room with them.

“Since SB 8 (the heartbeat bill) went into effect in Texas in September, we have watched California remain a beacon of hope for people seeking abortions. At Planned Parenthood Mar Monte alone, between July 2021 and April 15, 2022, we have provided care abortion care to twice the number of patients from out of state than we did during the same time period the previous year. The reversal of Roe could drive up the number of out-of-state patients whose nearest abortion provider would be in California to 1.4 million! And while no patient should have to travel for care, at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, we have been building capacity and are ready to support this increase in patients seeking care in California, especially in major transportation hubs and sanctuary cities like Oakland,” she said.

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