About 3,200 San Diego County residents are infected with the virus that causes AIDS and don't know it, the county Health and Human Services Agency reported Monday. Based on population alone, that would mean about 55 people in Santee are in that group.
"Getting tested is extremely important because one in seven people who are infected with HIV are not aware of it," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer. "The earlier we can detect HIV, the more treatment options there are."
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 living with the disease, according to the HHSA.
The agency said more than 5,400 residents have been diagnosed with HIV since 2006. About 25 percent of new victims are between 13 and 24 years old, with 60 percent unaware they have the disease.
The figure was released after Sunday's World AIDS Day, when the county honored four women for their fight against HIV/AIDS.
Vicky Sanchez, a nurse and case manager at the San Ysidro Health Center, received the Dr. A. Brad Truax Award, presented annually by the county 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 HHSA'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."
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. He was one of the first physicians in San Diego to treat people with AIDS.
Truax 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.
Also honored Sunday were 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.
World AIDS Day was marked at UC San Diego today -- with the students back from Thanksgiving break -- with a showing of portions of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. The quilt is the world's largest ongoing art project.
-City News Service