Chelsea, Mass., Officials Developing Teen HIV Prevention Strategy
Chelsea, Mass., officials have begun to develop a new HIV prevention strategy for teenagers following the recent release of statistics showing that nearly one-quarter of new HIV infections reported in the city between 1999 and 2002 were among teens and young adults, the Boston Globe reports. State Department of Health statistics showed that 23%, or 13, of Chelsea's 56 new HIV cases reported during that time occurred in individuals ages 13 to 24; Chelsea had the highest percentage of new HIV cases among young adults in Massachusetts for cities in which there were at least 20 newly reported HIV cases. Teens and young adults make up 8.7% of new HIV cases statewide. City officials met with state health department representatives on Aug. 6 to discuss possible prevention strategies. City Manager Jay Ash said that city officials, health care providers and agencies that work with young people will be holding meetings in the coming weeks to develop a new prevention plan, according to the Globe. "What's happening in our community is that we have had ongoing programs offered by many of the community-based organizations, but we never had a citywide coordinated effort to address the problem," Ash said, adding, "That's what we've set out to do now." New HIV/AIDS programs aimed at youth will complement current city-sponsored programs designed to curb youth violence and substance abuse, according to the Globe.
The state is providing Chelsea with technical assistance in developing its new prevention plan, but state funding for HIV/AIDS education is being "sharply cut," according to the Globe. Luis Prado, director of Chelsea Health and Human Services, said that the city will seek out federal and private grants for its new programs. Prado said that the prevention effort in Chelsea will be challenging because of the large number of immigrants in the city, adding, "[I]n some cultures, you don't talk about these things." Jean McGuire, director of the state health department's HIV/AIDS bureau, said the high percentage of new HIV cases among young adults is an "indicator in terms of telling you there are teen-related sexual and drug-related activities going on." According to the HIV/AIDS bureau, Chelsea's teen birth rate, high school drop-out rate and chlamydia rate are three times the state average (Laidler, Boston Globe, 8/14).