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The idea of HIV/ AIDS as a death sentence is a thing of the past, said Dr. Wilbert C. Jordan, medical director of the Oasis Clinic in Los Angeles, which helps HIV/ AIDS patients in the community regardless of their ability to pay. The number of medical developments in the past twenty years has ensured that people can be helped and can live longer healthier lives. However, African Americans patients, who make up about 65 percent of the 1500 patients at the HIV clinic, continue to suffer the highest rates of deaths and complications that stem from the disease.
"Getting help is not the problem," Jordan told the Sentinel in a recent interview.
"The problem is that people don't come in [to seek help.]"
A large part of that is due to the stigma of being HIV positive and the stigma of being homosexual in the African American community, which as a whole he said is not ready to accept homosexuality.
"I think that's a fantasy [right now]," Jordan explained.
"I wouldn't be able to encourage a young person for instance, to come out and with the truth to his family and friends if I can't protect him from [the stigma]. It's definitely something we need to address more."
HIV outreach has been a primary interest for Jordan. In 1979 he treated what later would become recognized as AIDS and reported the first heterosexual case of AIDS in Los Angeles County in 1983. In 1984 he began the AIDS Clinic, now OASIS Clinic, at King-Drew Medical Center.
His work has taken him around the world and has impacted the way the AIDS and HIV are reported in the medical field and specifically with the disease's affects on minority groups. He furthered the idea of "focused intervention" asking his HIV infected patients to identify persons they felt to be high risk. His success with this technique garnered a much greater response rate averaging 35-45 percent, which was atypical at the time. His techniques have been adopted by companies like GlaxoSmithKline Inc. for their Act4Life program.
Oasis offers free HIV testing, nutrition counseling, treatment education, mental health and women's services and case management. They offer new client intake every Monday through Friday (except holidays) for HIV positive patients. Clients who plan to register should expect to be here for approximately 1 to 1.5 hours, they said.