Grants to San Francisco AIDS Foundation will Boost Early Diagnosis of Acute HIV Infection

January 26, 2009?The San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s cutting-edge work to reduce the spread of HIV through early diagnosis of acute viral infection was recently advanced by grants from Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&CO.) and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

The grants, totaling $90,000, will help enhance HIV testing and diagnosis at Magnet, the Foundation’s community health center in San Francisco’s Castro District that serves the population at greatest risk for HIV infection.

LS&CO.’s grant of $50,000 will expand and upgrade Magnet’s electronic data collection system, which enables counselors to provide testing to individuals at increased risk of contracting HIV. Evidence shows that clinical intervention at the early and most virulent stage of HIV infection reduces transmission risk and improves long-term health outcomes. LS&CO. made the grant in honor of a recent Levi’s® store opening in the Castro neighborhood.

"Magnet is an important neighborhood institution providing residents with critical health services and serving as a gathering place for the community," said Merle Lawrence of LS&CO.’s Corporate Affairs department. "Its focus on slowing the spread of HIV aligns with our company and foundation history of supporting HIV/AIDS prevention and advocacy efforts globally for more than 25 years."

A $40,000 grant from the Elton John AIDS Foundation will provide technological support and enhance HIV testing at Magnet, bolstering the center’s ability to more quickly diagnose people with acute infections and reduce the spread of HIV in San Francisco.

Magnet has been recognized by the U.S .Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a national model for its innovative approach to providing health services, including HIV and sexually transmitted disease diagnosis, for gay and bisexual men in a nontraditional clinical setting that also serves as a community cultural center.

Electronic data collection was initiated at Magnet in 2006 as a collaborative effort of San Francisco’s Department of Public Health and the UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies. Handheld devices survey clients’ demographic and risk-behavior information, notifying counselors of clients who are at risk for acute or recent HIV infection. The devices collect data directly from customers, append electronic laboratory results and export confidential information to the Department of Public Health. The system has been so successful at Magnet that public health officials are expanding it to other testing centers across the city.

“Electronic surveys are the most thorough, easy-to-use and confidential way to collect client data,” said Mark Cloutier, CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “By boosting Magnet’s ability to provide prevention and testing services, these grants will enable the San Francisco AIDS Foundation to identify a greater number of acutely infected HIV-positive individuals and significantly curb HIV incidence in San Francisco.”

The grants will also enable Magnet to meet the increasing demand for online appointments and institute a fast-track system for people with acute infection.

Magnet merged with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in July 2007, a partnership that enabled Magnet to expand its hours of operation and more effectively meet the demand for sexual health services in the Castro District. In 2008, Magnet received nearly 7,000 visits and administered more than 20,000 HIV, gonorrhea and chlamydia tests as well as Hepatitis A and B vaccinations. Still, demand at Magnet exceeds capacity by 30 percent – evidence of the continued need for sexual health services in the Castro.

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation provides leadership to prevent new HIV infections. Linking community experience with science, the Foundation develops ground-breaking prevention programs and bold policy initiatives to promote health and create sustainable progress against HIV. Established in 1982, the Foundation refuses to accept that HIV transmission is inevitable.

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