SF Dept. Of Public Health Maps Out Severity of HIV Cases

By Leticia Miranda Nov 12, 2009

The San Francisco Department of Public Health recently put together a map of city residents with the most severe HIV cases. And, no they’re not in the flamingly white gay male Castro district. They live in two San Pancho neighborhoods that don’t have murals memorializing the number of deaths in their neighborhoods due to HIV/AIDS let alone services and support to treat them. The neighborhoods? Potrero Hill and Bayview, two neighborhoods that have historically been the homes of working-class families of color, mostly Black and Latino, and new hot spots for city gentrifiers and artists’ lofts. The New York times described this area across Portrero and Bayview on DPH’s map as "a dark stain." Hm…maybe they should rethink their language? But I digress. While the Castro does have the highest number of HIV cases, it’s here in Bayview and Potrero neighborhoods that DPH has found people with the highest viral loads of HIV. That means they are more sick than their Castro neighbors. These communities aren’t just ailing from more intense cases of HIV, but from heart disease, diabetes and obesity. The DPH is using this data to prevent the spread of HIV and find out where to invest resources to treat those who already have the infection. Dr. Moupali Das-Douglas, the lead investigator for the project, said to the Times:

If you’re monitoring the epidemic by just following the number of cases there are, you haven’t prevented new cases. If you have a marker upstream that may predict new cases, you can know where to target your services to prevent transmission.

Already other research groups and organizations are figuring out how to reproduce the project in their own areas. But the mapping project is just the first step towards figuring out how to better treat these neighborhoods. City officials and HIV/AIDS advocates are already anticipating a long and controversial process as DPH tries to figure out how to get into these neighborhoods and talk about HIV treatments.