NewsLocal NewsIn Your NeighborhoodBakersfield

Actions

HIV and STD rates continue to climb as experts urge preemptive measures

Posted at 9:12 AM, Mar 04, 2024
  • Video shows the quick and easy process of rapid HIV testing and data showing the increase in cases over the years.
  • As testing for HIV and STDs increased, so did the number of positive cases in Kern County. In fact, in 2022 Kern County Public Health saw 200 positive cases of HIV a 114% increase from 20 years ago.

Audrey Chavez founded the Bakersfield Aids Project 31 years ago, after losing her brother.

“My brother Rickey died of AIDS in 1992, and that was when we really started advocating for services in our county," she said.

Chavez said when they first started, even though HIV and aids were prevalent, resources were scarce and the stigmas surrounding the illnesses often kept people from getting tested.

“We basically advocated for a specialized clinic here for AIDS a one stop shop so that people didn’t have to die from this disease," Chavez said.

As testing for HIV and STDs increased, so did the number of positive cases in Kern County. In fact, in 2022 Kern County Public Health saw 200 positive cases of HIV a 114% increase from 20 years ago.

HIV and STD Program Manager for Public Health Patrick Salazar said these trends are not only being seen in Kern County, but throughout the state. He said stigmas surrounding preventative measures for HIV may be contributing to rising numbers with not only patients but even medical providers avoiding medications like PREP, a pre-exposure prophylaxis that could help reduce the risk of being infected.

“We’re still not seeing enough participation in PREP," he said. “We really need to do more around provider education.”

While HIV cases dropped slightly in 2021, Salazar attributed that more to stigmas created by the pandemic.

Chavez suspects case increases are likely due to an increase in resources and testing availability.. including rapid testing kits and even take-home kits, and she’s hopeful that preventative measure will become just as common.

Bakersfield AIDS project is out at Wheill Park every Saturday offering free HIV rapid testing from 1 to 3 p.m. You can also schedule an appointment through public health at their clinic on 1800 Mt. Vernon Avenue.


Stay in Touch with Us Anytime, Anywhere: