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Better methods for AIDS testing

Methods to reach people who are unaware that they are infected with the AIDS virus have been enlarged and fine-tuned.

A Prevention Task Force of community members, health care providers and advocates is focused on making HIV testing services and education more widespread and frequent around Sonoma County.

A key is providing easy testing to people when they come in contact with the health care system, especially for those who are poor, mentally ill and/or homeless, groups known to have a higher risk for undetected HIV infection.

At several Sonoma County health centers, clients are routinely asked three questions when they are seen, said Danny Toub, lead HIV clinician at Santa Rosa Community Health Centers.

"When was your last test? What was the result? Would you like to be tested today?" Toub said.

"It's not dwelling too much on your risk, but hey, you're accessing health care, you're going to get a blood pressure test, we'll check your vital signs, also screen you for HIV."

In another approach, The Drug Abuse Alternatives Center of Santa Rosa got a five-year grant to refit a van that travels around the county offering HIV tests at sites such as Lola's Market on Sebastopol Road, where it sets up Friday afternoons.

The van is marked "WOW, Wellness on Wheels" in English and Spanish. Music is broadcast. Snacks are offered. Condoms are given away.

"It doesn't say, &‘Hi come and get an HIV test,' because that's going to be scary and people aren't going to want to do that," said Lynn Campanario, the center's director of outpatient services and chair of the county's Commission on AIDS.

"We're really trying to be creative and take initiative in how we reach folks," said Campanario.

— Jeremy Hay


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