Last updated on April 18, 2014 at 9:14 EDT

Area Conference on Disparities in HIV/AIDS Convenes May 23-24 in San Francisco With Focus on Accelerating HIV Testing, Access to Care

May 15, 2012

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Skyrocketing rates of HIV among African Americans and Latinos in the Bay Area will take center stage when national and local leaders in HIV policy convene in San Francisco on May 23-24 for a conference on the unequal burden of HIV/AIDS among communities of color, sexual minorities and the poor.

Sponsored by the Washington-based Forum for Collaborative HIV Research, the meeting comes at a time when HIV infection among African Americans is seven-fold the rate of whites and nearly three times as high among Latinos as for whites. In fact, in San Francisco alone, it is estimated that as many as a third (33%) of the African American men who have sex with men (MSM) now live with HIV and disparities exist across the spectrum of care – from early diagnosis to access and linkage to care and treatment outcomes. To change this situation, the conference will use the Bay Area as a test case for identifying innovative interdisciplinary approaches that overcome disparities by dealing with the root causes of the problem, including poverty, unequal access to healthcare services, lower educational attainment, social stigma, and sexual minority stress.

“This important conference is designed to solidify the science of HIV disparities and effective interventions that are changing the standard of care by approaching disparities from all sides and using the Bay Area as ‘ground zero’ for what is working and what is not,” said Veronica Miller, Ph.D., Director of the Forum. “Our goal is to take up the current challenges faced by academic centers and community organizations in the Bay Area to generate novel ways to address disparities in HIV at the state and national levels.”

The conference – Overcoming Health Disparities in the Bay Area: Using HIV/AIDS as a Model – will take place at the Mission Bay Conference Center at UCSF Robertson Auditorium. Held in association with the University of California, San Francisco Center for AIDS Research and San Francisco Department of Public Health, the meeting is expected to draw an estimated 150 scientists, clinicians, public health leaders and advocates, including many from the Bay Area.

New White House AIDS Policy Advisor to Give Keynote Address on May 24
Of special importance to the HIV/AIDS community, President Obama’s new Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, Grant Colfax, MD, returns to the Bay Area to provide an update on the Administration’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which calls for accelerated adoption of routine HIV testing and for increasing patients’ access to care. Joining the White House after working for many years in San Francisco as the Director of the HIV Prevention Section in the Department of Public Health, Dr. Colfax will describe the regional implications of implementing the National HIV/AIDS Strategy in terms of reduced HIV transmission rates.

Rhodessa Jones, Cultural Odyssey Troupe to Perform; Address Challenges for Women with HIV
Another conference highlight will be a performance by artist, singer and writer Rhodessa Jones and The Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women addressing trauma, abuse, and HIV infection in women. Developed in conjunction with the Women’s HIV Program (WHP) at University of California, San Francisco, this very innovative and effective intervention for HIV-positive women entails a year-long workshop where women write out their personal stories and make known their HIV status in a public theatrical performance called Dancing with the Clown of Love.

Government leaders; HIV/AIDS Experts to Speak at the Conference
Because disparities occur at all points along the HIV care continuum – from routine testing and linkage to care to antiretroviral prescribing – top government and HIV experts will also present the latest thinking on the causes of disparities in HIV and highlight innovative ways these barriers are being addressed in the Bay Area. Highlights include:

Wednesday, May 23

  • Dr. Paul Volberding, the new Director of the AIDS Research Institute (ARI) at UCSF, will provide a unique perspective on the HIV epidemic, comparing and contrasting the response to HIV in San Francisco and in Uganda where there are more commonalities that may be realized
  • Dr. Warner C. Greene, Director and Senior Investigator, Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology at UCSF, will highlight the role of basic science in addressing the biological components of health disparities in HIV/AIDS
  • Dr. Marguerita Lightfoot, Co-Director of the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS) at UCSF, will emphasize the role of community based organizations and the importance of integrating socio-cultural components into effective interventions
  • Dr. Cynthia A. Gomez, founding Director of San Francisco State University’s Health Equity Institute, will focus on the role of local policies that influence health disparities and ways to mitigate their effect
  • Valorie Eckert, Research Scientist for the Office of AIDS, California Department of Public Health (CDPH), will provide an updated epidemiological overview HIV/AIDS in the Bay Area counties with emphasis on the diverse drivers of the epidemic
  • Rhodessa Jones and the Cultural Odyssey Troupe will use theatrical performance to show how disclosing abuse empowers women with HIV to stay in treatment
  • Dr. Joan Y. Reede, Dean for Diversity and Community Partnership, Harvard Medical School, will address the importance of diversity in the healthcare workforce in overcoming disparities in HIV

Thursday, May 24

  • Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, will give the keynote address on the federal government’s priorities in implementing the National HIV/AIDS Strategy
  • Greg Millett, CDC/HHS Liaison to White House Office of National AIDS Policy, will summarize new research findings that help explain disparities in HIV infection among black and white men who have sex with men
  • Anne Donnelly, Director of Public Policy for Project Inform, one of the most influential community based HIV treatment information and advocacy organizations, will focus on healthcare reform and the implications for Bay Area HIV prevention and treatment programs

About the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research
Part of the University of California (UC), Berkeley School of Public Health and based in Washington, DC, the Forum was founded in 1997 as the outgrowth of a White House initiative. Representing government, industry, patient advocates, healthcare providers, foundations and academia, the Forum is a public/private partnership that organizes roundtables and issues reports on a range of global HIV/AIDS issues. Forum recommendations have changed the ways that clinical trials are conducted, accelerated the delivery of new classes of drugs, heightened awareness of TB/HIV co-infection, and helped to spur national momentum toward universal testing for HIV. http://www.hivforum.org.

SOURCE Forum for Collaborative HIV Research

Source: PR Newswire