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AHF Launches 'Public Health Division'
Date:9/25/2007

Formerly the 'Prevention and Testing Department,' Name Change Reflects Agency's Expanded Charter to Provide Community Health Education and Public Health Policy Development to a Broad, Diverse Audience Aimed at Reducing HIV and STD Infections in the U.S. and Globally

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), operator of the largest non-government HIV testing program in California, today announced the formation of its new 'Public Health Division'. Formerly known as AHF's 'Prevention and Testing Department,' the Public Health Division is the organization's community health education and public health policy arm. The new name reflects the department's expanded charter as it continues to build on the organization's history of providing effective and innovative HIV testing and counseling services, social marketing campaigns and public health policy and legislation development.

The Public Health Division name change also demonstrates an expansion of the reach of AHF's services as the department continues to keep pace with changes in the HIV/AIDS epidemic, including the changing face of populations considered most at-risk. The department originated with the primary purpose of operating AHF's HIV testing and counseling program targeted toward a predominantly men who have sex with men (MSM) population in Los Angeles and West Hollywood. Its reach has evolved as the epidemic has changed, to include heterosexual men and women, MSM men of color, men of color who do not self identify as MSM, and women of color. Just one example of AHF's broader reach is the Foundation's participation in the federal Centers for the Disease Control's (CDC's) Sisters Informing Sisters about Topics on AIDS (SISTA) Intervention program in Los Angeles, a peer-led, skill-building intervention project to prevent HIV infection in African-American women.

Geographically, the department has also expanded to include more areas within Los Angeles County, including South Los Angeles, San Bernardino County, the Bay area in Northern California, and most recently South Florida. Additionally, AHF offers HIV testing, counseling and referral services in Tijuana, Mexico. Originally offering services solely aimed at HIV testing and counseling, the department has also increased the scope of its services to include screening for other sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea and syphilis, often a co-factor in HIV transmission.

"We are pleased to announce AHF's Public Health Division and its new charter to provide expanded services with a broader reach both in the U.S. and abroad," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "We believe that the best way to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic around the globe is to take a public health approach that offers both access to treatment as well as public education and testing services. As a provider of HIV/AIDS treatment in 15 countries, we are in a unique position to offer this breadth of services. With the Public Health Division's new expanded mission, AHF looks forward to not only building on our existing services but also continuing to advocate for sound public health policy with the aim of reducing new infections and getting more people into treatment."

In addition to its growth in response to changing demographics, the department has also expanded its breadth of services to include the development and implementation of highly effective social marketing campaigns funded by the federal Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Los Angeles County aimed at HIV education and risk reduction. An example of AHF's most recent success in this social arena is its 'Stay Negative' HIV prevention campaign, funded in part by the CDC and Los Angeles County. A post-campaign survey found that the initiative achieved extraordinary success in its aim to reach its target audience with an effective health education and risk reduction campaign to raise awareness in Los Angeles County that HIV infection is still a serious threat.

The Public Health Division's current roster of services includes: mobile HIV testing and counseling services using mobile testing vans to reach target communities in the greater Los Angeles area; nontraditional venue HIV and STD testing at 'Out of the Closet' thrift stores; partner counseling and referral services; a Men's Wellness Center; Bay Area outreach programs targeting high-risk populations; and HIV testing in Los Angeles County jails. Service elements under the Division's expanded charter will include expanded HIV testing initiatives, public policy formation and advocacy, best practice modeling, training & technical assistance and targeted minority health initiatives.

"The Public Health Division's broader reach, in terms of population served and location, as well as the inclusion of STDs beyond HIV, and the public education, testing and treatment initiatives surrounding them, reflects AHF's growth in public health policy and influence," said Whitney Engeran III, Director of Public Health Division for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "We look forward to bringing our expertise in developing and implementing testing models, innovative targeted health initiatives and public health policy formation to best serve populations in need the U.S. and around the world."

The Division is currently undertaking Counselor Training and Certification in California; SISTA Intervention in Los Angeles; a Two Track Pilot; a Triple Algorithm Pilot and an Opt Out Study.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the nation's largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare, research, prevention and education provider. In California, AHF operates the largest non-government HIV testing program, which conducts more than 15,000 HIV tests annually. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 61,000 individuals in 15 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia. Additional information is available at http://www.aidshealth.org


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SOURCE AIDS Healthcare Foundation
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