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Minorities Overcoming Risk fund set to Reduce HIV risk and substance abuse

Antoinette Luzano, Assistant News Editor

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The Substance Abuse Foundation of Long Beach (SAF) has partnered with Cal State Long Beach’s Center for Behavioral Research and Services (CBRS) for a project focused on decreasing substance abuse and HIV/AIDS among minorities.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has funded the project, titled Minorities Overcoming Risk, with a $2.24 million grant that will be distributed over five years.

“The purpose of the project is to reduce HIV risk and improve the quality of life for highly vulnerable African-Americans and Latinos/Hispanics in Long Beach, who now account for nearly half (49.3 percent) of all new AIDS cases in this highly impacted city,” said Dennis Fisher, a CSULB professor and the CBRS director, in a prepared statement. The project will increase access to substance abuse treatment centers and HIV/AIDS services.

The grant will help fund salaries and supplies, as well as the five-year program’s services, which include counseling, case management, HIV testing, mental health referrals, HIV risk reduction education and community outreach, according to the statement. The grant covers direct costs for services and excludes any administration fees, according to Kathryn Romo, the SAF executive director.

CSULB will also annually receive approximately $100,000 of the grant, according to Romo. The CBRS, which is the subcontractor, will be responsible for the research.

“We’ll be interviewing all their clients at baseline,” Fisher said. They will interview clients again after either six months or the clients’ discharge to determine the effectiveness of the program, Fisher said.

According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Long Beach had the highest rate in the South Bay of people living with AIDS, with about 443 diagnosed per 100,000 people.

Approximately 13 percent of those living with AIDS in Los Angeles County in 2002 were diagnosed before they turned 30, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.

“We need to start educating minorities at a younger age about high-risk behavior, whether it may be substance abuse or high-risk sexual activity,” Romo said. “Programs were clearly underfunded and the grant will help close the gap. However, more funding is still needed to deter the HIV infection rates among minorities.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 49 percent of those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 2006 were African-American, and 18 percent were Hispanic. In Los Angeles County, 38 percent of those with AIDS in June 2004 were Hispanic and 22 percent were black, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

The project is estimated to support about 1,000 people in its five years, according to the press release.

The grant proposal was sent in April 2008 and accepted Sept. 30, Romo said. According to the CBRS website, the project also receives funds from the Substance Abuse Foundation of Long Beach.

According to a prepared statement, the program began Jan. 1. The program currently “seems to be going smoothly,” Romo said.

The CBRS and SAF have several other contracts together, Fisher said.

“We think this is a really important grant,” Fisher said. “It’s definitely needed.”

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