[Hpn] Sacramento, CA - Governor Signs AB 2064 for New Approach to HIV Testing - PRNewswire - August 28, 2002

Homeless Daily News Homeless Daily News <hccjr@bellsouth.net>
Wed, 28 Aug 2002 09:19:39 -0500


Governor Signs AB 2064 (Cedillo, D, Los Angeles)
Bill Paves Way for New Approach to HIV Testing

Law Enables Community-based, Nonprofit Organizations With
'Demonstrated Expertise' to Conduct Counselor Training for
State's HIV Testing Programs

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By Ged Kenslea - PRNewswire - August 28, 2002

A bill that enables community-based, nonprofit organizations with
"demonstrated expertise in ... HIV testing services" to train
urgently needed new HIV testing counselors was signed into law by
Governor Gray Davis yesterday.

The bill, AB 2064 (Gil Cedillo, D, Los Angeles), should help ease
the shortage of certified HIV testing counselors, particularly
among those organizations and testing programs working with
higher risk populations.

Currently, such training and certification is only offered under state
supervision via county health departments throughout the state.

"This bill paves the way for a whole new approach to HIV
testing," said Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, AB 2064's author.

"By empowering community-based, nonprofit organizations with
expertise in HIV testing to recruit and train testing counselors,
AB 2064 enhances and supplements our county-based training
programs in an effort to reach more Californians with vital HIV
testing, prevention and outreach. I thank the Governor for his
signature on this important legislation."

"Given that as many as half of all Californians who are HIV
positive do not know their HIV status, AB 2064 should greatly
increase access to HIV testing services by adding newly trained
counselors in a more timely manner," said Michael Weinstein,
President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the sponsor of the
bill.

"These new counselors would be trained by organizations with
first hand, front line expertise and experience in testing,
particularly among high risk, often hard-to-reach populations
such as bath house and sex club patrons."

Currently, training to become a certified HIV pre-test and
post-test counselor consists of a 32-hour, four-day course
conducted by county health services' departments around the
state.  These courses are routinely only offered Monday through
Friday during traditional business hours. According to the
legislation, AB 2064 allows for HIV counselor training programs
to be, "... offered at flexible times, so as to facilitate the
training of volunteer and part-time counselors," many of whom may
work at alternative testing sites (ATS), which many experts see
as key to reaching at- risk populations.

"We need training programs that are more reflective of the high
risk populations we serve and more conducive to recruiting and
retaining more qualified HIV testing counselors," said Karen
Mall, AIDS Healthcare Foundation's Director of Prevention.

"I believe this legislation will help increase the outreach that
we and other community-based groups can do by broadening the pool
of qualified HIV testing counselors willing and able to work with
and serve a very diverse population of Californians seeking
testing."

AIDS Healthcare Foundation's Department of Prevention HIV testing
program, now the largest in the state, is currently observing its
5th anniversary and the completion of over 25,000 free HIV tests.

Most of these tests were done through alternative testing site
(ATS) programs such as in AHF's Out of the Closet thrift store
chain.  In addition to its successful alternative testing site
program in Out of the Closet, AHF recently added testing programs
in three additional alternative test sites -- in a mobile testing
van, in commercial and public sex venues (CSVs) with the Adult
Industry Medical Group (AIM) and in the County of Los Angeles'
jails system.

Preliminary July 2002 results for just one of these programs, the
commercial and public sex venues, yielded an alarming 17% HIV
sero-positivity rate -- whereby six (6) of the 35 people tested
came back HIV positive.

The benchmark for an HIV testing program to be considered
successful at identifying new HIV positive individuals is
approximately 2%.

"Sadly, these numbers show an ever-increasing need for a broad
scope of HIV testing services and programs in this state," said
AHF's Weinstein. "AB 2064 should help California step up its HIV
testing, prevention and outreach to such populations in need."

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the largest provider of
specialized HIV/AIDS medical care in the United States.  AHF
serves thousands of patients in California, New York and Florida
regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.

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