Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Sep 30th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

The Pitfalls of Being Treatable

news_aids3Santa Cruzans gather for a candlelit vigil on World AIDS Day to remember the victims of America's forgotten pandemic

Dozens of candles flickered in the cold wind, held solemnly by those assembled at the end of Pacific Avenue on Tuesday, Dec. 1, to pay their respects to loved ones taken away by or suffering from AIDS. Under the near full moon, words of togetherness and respect were voiced. There was music and singing, praying and laughter, sadness and hope. But this year there was another emotion bandied just as passionately—one of anger at a country’s, and a community's, neglect.

After a rendition of "Lean On Me," Merle Smith, executive director of the Santa Cruz AIDS Project (SCAP), stepped forward to address the circle: "My own brother passed from AIDS in 2006, [and] two weeks ago I had a niece who was diagnosed positive. The disease is still active, it is still touching our friends and our families," she said.

Much of the anger in the local community stems from large cuts to SCAP's public and private funding. This September their Drop-In center, which spearheaded many AIDS treatment and prevention methods that have become models for other clinics across the country, was forced to close. "All the state funding was completely taken away," Smith tells Good Times. "We have had the Drop-In center for 19 years and this year we had to take it away."

SCAP has lost nearly half of its overall funding, necessitating the layoffs of nearly half its staff and the closure of the Drop-In center. The loss of so many employees means they will not be able to do much of the outreach work they've become known for, like seeking out the sick in our levees and shanties.

Though AIDS is an emotional topic, for her especially, Smith tries to make her points with fiscal sensibility. "What about the $650,000 it takes to keep a person with HIV and AIDS alive? You could negate that by spending a lot less now [in prevention]," she says. Much of the work SCAP does in Santa Cruz is with prevention education.

Cuts like those suffered by SCAP have become common across our country during these tough economic times. Smith says she thinks the cuts have been especially hard on AIDS facilities as public interest has waned as people have come to see the disease as treatable and so not as serious as it once was.

"People think that now that they don't see people dropping dead on the streets the problem isn't there," says Smith. "There's still a desperate need for education."

It's been 30 years since the first recorded case of AIDS, yet a recent survey of 64 countries by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) showed that less than 40 percent of youth have basic information regarding HIV. There are an estimated 33 million people living with AIDS worldwide, and more than 25 million have died of the disease since 1981. Last year alone there were 3 million new cases recorded, and more than 2 million deaths.

While AIDS rates in America have seemed to level out in recent years (the number of cases in Santa Cruz County staying between 700-1,000) this is due largely to the quality of our treatment centers and does not imply that there are no new cases. An average of 15 new cases have been recorded every year for the last six years In Santa Cruz County, according to data in the 2009 Community Assessment Project report. Smith worries that a lack of funding to centers could result in a backward slide toward the way things were before the center's conception. "People in those days were dying much more rapidly than today,” she says. “It was almost like being in a third world country."

Despite funding cuts, there are things being done to help. Biz AIDS, developed by New Leaf Community Markets in cooperation with SCAP, is a program that asks local businesses to donate a percentage of their sales or a fixed amount to SCAP for the ten days following Thanksgiving. SCAP also organizes an AIDS walk every spring from the Santa Cruz Wharf to Natural Bridges State Park and back. These programs may not be enough to offset the massive funding cuts they've sustained.

"We always need volunteers," says Smith. "If there are people who can write grants for us, can sit with a client, can take care of a homeless person—we have space."

AIDS was the definitive disease of an era, and as that era passes, SCAP reminds us that it is important to remember the difference between a disease being treatable and a disease being cured.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Reflecting Glass

Composer Philip Glass’ first trip to Big Sur was by motorcycle; little did he know that he’d establish a music festival there six decades later.

 

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs this year during Libra, the sign of creating right relations with all aspects life and with earth’s kingdoms. We contemplate (the Libra meditation) forgiveness, which means, “to give for another.” Forgiveness is not pardon. It’s a sacrifice (fire in the heart, giving from the heart). Forgiveness is giving up for the good of the other. This is the law of evolution (the path of return).

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 26

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Wurst Case Scenario

Venus Spirits releases agave spirit, Renee Shepherd on planting garlic, Sausagefest 2014, and wine harvest in full swing

 

Do you think you are addicted to technology?

Santa Cruz  |  Unemployed

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Apricot Wine for Dessert

Thomas Kruse Winery, a participant in the new Santa Clara Wine Trail, has been around for a long time—since 1971, to be exact. When our little group arrived to try some wine at the Kruses’ low-key tasting room, Thomas Kruse and his wife Karen were there to greet us. Theirs is a small operation, and they’re proud to offer quality wine at affordable prices. “Because we are small and low-tech, it’s easy to relate to the whole winemaking process,” says Karen—and the Kruses take pride in making wine “just like it has been made for centuries.”