Questions and answers – in a drop of blood
BRECKENRIDGE – Twenty years ago, HIV and AIDS were hot topics – at the forefront of media coverage, health care and public consciousness. But with time, and improved medical treatment, the fever subsided and when most people read or talk about the virus and its related syndrome now, they speak of an epidemic in some far-off corner of the world.Meanwhile, in Colorado and the rest of the U.S., HIV infection rates are on the rise, this time striking in new populations, such as women and Latinos.”Fifteen years ago, people were getting good information,” Jeff Basinger said Saturday, in between testing visitors at the House With the Red Door in Breckenridge. “But people have stopped paying attention.”
Basinger is director of the Western Colorado AIDS Project, based in Grand Junction. HIV positive himself for nearly two decades, Basinger travels the Western Slope conducting vigils on World AIDS Day, speaking to student and community groups and conducting clinical testing for the virus.He describes the changing face of those infected – the disease has moved beyond the stereotypes of gay men and intravenous drug users – and cites statistics with a hint of alarm: Ghettos in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, St. Louis, even Five Points in Denver, with infection rates that rival sub-Saharan Africa. His organization has added 35 Western Colorado residents to its client list since November. In Summit County, his caseload has quadrupled to eight in the past year.
Basinger said that, despite this need, new federal requirements for testing procedures and slashed funding have conspired to reduce opportunities for screening. Last year, Colorado hosted 63 HIV testing sites; this year there will only be 14.”It’s funding, and it’s bureaucracy,” Basinger said.Saturday’s screening was made possible with the help of Summit County’s PFLAG chapter and the House With the Red Door. A PFLAG spokesman said offering the service is a matter of public health. Summit County does have people engaging in risky behaviors, and the young, transient population only increases those risks.
HIV testing is also available through Summit County Public Health and Nursing. For more information, call (970) 668-5230. For more information on HIV and AIDS in Western Colorado, contact Basinger at 1-(800)-765-8594.Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or at email@example.com.
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