Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
Feb 01st
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

 

Throwing It All Away

Everybody’s for recycling, right? So why are we all doing it wrong? Our reporter gets down and dirty to uncover 10 secrets that will finally make the recycling process make sense

 

Aquarius Calling, Humanity Rising

Aquarius (11th sign after Aries) is the sign of service—serving one another, building community. Aquarius is fixed air, stabilizing new ideas in the world. When new ideas reach the masses the ideas become ideals within the hearts and minds of humanity. Air signs (Gemini, Libra and Aquarius) are mental. They think, ponder, study, research, gather and distribute information. For air signs, education and learning, communicating, writing, being social, tending to money, participating in groups and creating sustainable communities are most important. One of the present messages Aquarius is putting forth to the New Group of World Servers is the creation of the New Education (thus thinking) for humanity—one based not on commodities (banking/corporate values) but on virtues. Humanity and Aquarius Aquarius is the sign of humanity itself. We are now at the beginnings of the Age of Aquarius, the Age of Humanity (rising). The “rising” is the Aquarian vision of equality, unity, the distribution and sharing of all resources and of individual (Leo) creative gifts for the purpose of humanity’s (Aquarius) uplifting. This is the message in the Solar Festival of Aquarius (at the full moon) on Tuesday, Feb. 3. We join in these visions by reciting the World Prayer of Direction, the Great Invocation.Tuesday’s solar festival follows Monday’s Groundhog Day, or Imbolc (ancient Celtic fire festival) the halfway mark between winter solstice and spring Equinox). The New Group of World Servers (NGWS) during these two days are preparing for the upcoming Three Spring Solar Festivals: 1. Aries Resurrection/Easter Festival (April); 2. Taurus Buddha/Wesak Festival (May); and 3. Gemini’s Festival of Humanity (June). Aquarius and the new and full moons together are the primary astrological influences behind all of humanity’s endeavors. The NGWS are to teach these things, calling and uplifting humanity. Join us everyone. (301)

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Job Insecurity

Woman fights for her job in thoughtful, life-sized ‘Two Days One Night’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Jeffrey’s Restaurant

Why quick and friendly service matters at a local diner.

 

If you didn't live in Santa Cruz, where would you be living?

I would live in Kauai because the water is warmer, and I just love it there. Maureen Niehaus, Santa Cruz, Dental Assistant

 

Clos LaChance Wines

Pinot Noir 2012

 

Striking Gold

A taste of Soquel Vineyards’ five gold medal-winning Pinots