World AIDS Day

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How What Happened In San Francisco Led to World AIDS Day

San Francisco City Hall is lit red on World AIDS Day in 2009.  (Steve Jennings/Getty Images)

San Francisco City Hall is lit red on World AIDS Day in 2009. (Steve Jennings/Getty Images)

By Jim Bunn

It was the summer of 1983 and my first day on the job at KPIX — San Francisco’s CBS television affiliate. My assignment: cover a news conference at the Irwin Memorial Blood Bank. It was about the new and mysterious disease, AIDS, and the blood supply.

“We need a day. Like ‘Cold-Turkey’ in the States where people quit smoking for a day.”
Sitting in the car to return to the station, my head was reeling. I had heard about AIDS in my previous job on the east coast, but nothing more than that. Clearly this had all the earmarks of a tremendously important story. It was a fearful time. People were dying. The nation’s blood supply was somehow at risk. There was an international race to find the cause and, hopefully, some way to treat this terrible disease and save countless lives.

The kind of story a reporter yearns to cover.

But at the center of it was science. Significant, because not too many years earlier I was the stupidest high school biology student in the history of public education. No joke. Two weeks before graduation I still had an “incomplete” for sophomore biology. Only through the good graces of my biology teacher, who gave me an oral exam, during which he fed me the answers to his questions, was I able to graduate.

So the science of the AIDS “story” stared me in the face –- and scared me. Continue reading

Homeless Young People Find Help at Larkin Street Youth Services in SF

The news this week from the Centers for Disease Control about HIV and young people may have startled some, but to people who work at San Francisco’s Larkin Street Youth Services, it was a spotlight on what they see every day.

More than a quarter of all new infections every year are in young people between ages 13 and 24 — and more than half of those youth infected don’t know it. Hardest hit are African Americans — 57 percent of people in this young age group.

In advance of World AIDS Day on Saturday, The California Report’s host Rachael Myrow visited Larkin Street Youth Services, which helps homeless teens get off the streets and get tested for HIV. She talked to two women who manage programs at the organization.

Here is an edited transcript of their discussion:

LARA TANNENBAUM, Larkin Street’s housing programs: The majority of our youth have experienced a severe amount of abuse or neglect in the home, parental substance use, perhaps a lot of poverty in the home where families weren’t able to care for them. Many of our clients are LGBT and their parents asked them to leave because of their sexual orientation. So people really become homeless for a variety of reasons.

RACHAEL MYROW: How do you start a conversation with a teenager about HIV/AIDS?

RAE SUBER, Larkin Street’s HIV testing & prevention program: Getting a client to consider testing is like getting them to consider medical care in general. Usually there’s a crisis. They think they might have a sexually transmitted infection. They think they might be pregnant. They think their partner might have an infection or be pregnant, and they’re concerned. So they come in and, if testing is indicated, we’ll recommend it. Continue reading

What is the Cost of Living with HIV?

(gernhaex/Flickr)

(gernhaex/Flickr)

Saturday is World AIDS Day, a time when we take stock of where we are globally in the fight against the disease and — according to its mission – show support for people living with HIV.

KQED’s Joshua Johnson had an unusually moving way of going about showing support on this morning’s air. He interviewed our colleague Mark Trautwein, editor of KQED’s Perspectives series. Much to my own surprise, Trautwein has been living with HIV, as Johnson describes, since a time when diagnosis was thought to be a death sentence.

Johnson wanted to explore the cost of the disease — not its emotional toll, but real dollars. Their four minute interview this morning was one of those times where you just stop and listen. And reflect. And peer right into someone else’s life.

Trautwein is one of 1.2 million Americans living with HIV/AIDS. As a health reporter, I find total treatment dollars are so huge they’re sometimes hard to grasp. But Johnson and Trautwein put a very real face on what it costs — from check ups to blood tests to endless prescriptions — to stay alive.

What follows is a lightly edited transcript of their conversation. But if you can, please listen here to the longer version. You won’t be sorry:

Continue reading

What Are the Costs of HIV Treatment?

by Ian Hill, KQED News

Workers hang a red ribbon on the White House before World AIDS Day, 2011. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Workers hang a red ribbon on the White House before World AIDS Day, 2011. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Living with HIV is not cheap. Earlier this year NPR reported that monthly HIV treatments can cost between $2,000-$5,000 and that the lifetime cost of treatment is estimated at more than a half-million dollars. While public assistance programs can help cover some treatments, some people still find it a challenge to pay for the drugs they need to survive.

In advance of World AIDS Day this Saturday, KQED wants to know how the cost of treatments has affected people living with HIV. If you’re HIV positive, you can help inform our reporting by filling out the form below. The information you provide may be used in a future blog post or in our reporting on radio, unless otherwise noted. Continue reading