Health

3,200 San Diegans HIV-Positive and Don’t Know It

Over a four-decade nursing career, Vicky Sanchez has built a reputation for being motherly, yet no-nonsense. The HIV nurse case manager received the top award as the County marked World AIDS Day by recognizing four women for their fight against HIV/AIDS in the San Diego region.

Sanchez, who works at San Ysidro Health Center, received the overall Dr. A. Brad Truax Award, presented annually for the past 25 years.

“Her passion and dedication to patients have earned her the respect and admiration of the San Diego/Tijuana Border community,” said Patrick Loose, chief of the County Health and Human Services Agency’s HIV, STD and Hepatitis Branch. “She makes great efforts to ensure her HIV-positive patients stay in treatment and encourages those at risk to get tested.”

Three other Truax awards were presented to Deborah Benson, from the Anti-Viral Research Center at the University of California San Diego and Monica Leon-Lopez and Karla Liliana Torres from San Ysidro Health Center. The awards were presented Sunday at the San Diego Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center.

The Truax Award was created by the San Diego County Regional Task Force on AIDS to honor the memory of Dr. Brad Truax, who died in 1988 after being diagnosed with AIDS. Dr. Truax was one of the first physicians in San Diego to treat people with AIDS.

He advocated for laws to protect people with HIV/AIDS from discrimination and helped establish and later chaired the Mayor’s Task Force on AIDS in 1983.

HIV/AIDS in San Diego

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people between the ages of 13 and 24 represent more than a quarter of the new HIV infections each year and 60 percent of them are unaware they are infected.

In San Diego County, there are nearly 3,200 people who are HIV-positive and not aware of their status, according to HHSA estimates.

These sobering statistics are a startling reminder that it’s important to know and disclose your HIV status.

“Getting tested is extremely important because one in seven people who are infected with HIV are not aware of it,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County Public Health Officer. “The earlier we can detect HIV, the more treatment options there are.”

Getting tested is easy to do. You can ask your doctor to perform the HIV test during a routine physical exam or you can go to a County STD clinic and have it done there. In most circumstances, you will generally have the results in 20 minutes or less.

Testing people for HIV is part of Live Well San Diego, the County’s ongoing initiative to improve the health and well-being of local residents.

Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, about 15,000 San Diego County residents have been diagnosed with AIDS and 7,221 are currently living with the disease. Furthermore, since 2006, more than 5,400 residents have been diagnosed with HIV disease.

“Advances in medication and treatment have helped individuals with AIDS to live longer, healthier lives,” Loose said.

To learn more about HIV and AIDS and testing locations, visit www.stdsandiego.org

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact