For Immediate Release:
June 21, 2000
LOS ANGELES -- Officials at the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services estimate that as many as one quarter of Angelenos infected with HIV are not aware of their HIV status.
While California does not require reporting of HIV cases, County Health officials estimate that as many as 40,000 people in the County are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and of that group, up to 12,000 individuals do not know they are HIV positive. Given this, public health officials urge those who are at risk for HIV to visit one of the County’s free anonymous and confidential testing sites.
National HIV Testing Day is June 27 and was created by the National Association for People with AIDS to promote early testing and treatment. Los Angeles County’s Health Department expanded these efforts to a week-long series of events that promote and offer free, anonymous and confidential HIV testing throughout the County.
AIDS has resulted in over 25,000 deaths in Los Angeles County since 1981; however, the introduction of protease inhibitors and new combination therapies has led to a substantial drop in deaths attributed to the disease; from 1993-99, AIDS-related deaths decreased by nearly 80 percent.
"HIV treatment options have improved dramatically over the last five years, but it’s critical to catch the disease in its early stages," said Jonathan E. Fielding, M.D., M.P.H., Director of Public Health and County Health Officer. "Unfortunately, society can stigmatize people with HIV, and this may be one reason why so many individuals who are at risk for infection have been reluctant to get tested. Los Angeles County has some of the finest, most compassionate public and private HIV physicians in the nation. It’s critical that people who are at risk get tested."
California requires the reporting of AIDS cases. Currently, nearly 16,000 people are living with AIDS in Los Angeles County.
The AIDS epidemic has shifted dramatically since the first cases were diagnosed in the County. As in other parts of the country, the County’s AIDS’ epidemic has moved largely from whites to Latino and African-American populations. Five years ago, Latinos accounted for less than a third of all AIDS cases in the County; today they represent 42 percent of the County’s epidemic. While there are fewer cases among African-Americans in Los Angeles County, case rates for this group are much higher rate than for any other racial or ethnic groups. African-Americans have a case rate of 58 per 100,000 compared to Latinos (23/100,000) and whites (18/100,000).
Los Angeles County differs from others regions in that male-to-male sexual contact remains by far the most common mode of transmission, accounting for as many as three in four cases. Injection drug use, which is linked to 27 percent of the cases nationally, is identified in fewer than 15 percent of the transmissions in Los Angeles County.
Additionally, women represent 11 percent of the AIDS cases in Los Angeles County compared to 23 percent of cases nationally.
"There is no question the epidemic looks different here," said Charles L. Henry, Director of the County’s Office of AIDS Programs and Policy. "A number of factors contribute to this difference, not the least of which is how spread out the Los Angeles region is compared to other urban centers. The challenge for our community is make sure the AIDS epidemic never escalates among women and injection drug users."
For information on free testing sites, call the California AIDS Hotline at (800) 367-AIDS or call the STD Hotline for a County health facility (800) 758-0880. The Office of AIDS Programs and Policy also partners with dozens of community-based organizations throughout the County to provide free HIV/STD testing services. A complete list is provided with this release.
Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control and community and family health and comprises more than 3,600 employees with an annual budget exceeding $430 million.