On Friday night, Supernova, this year’s WEBB Party, comes to Historic Sunset Station with tastings provided by top chefs, a bevy of DJs, definitely “alt” performance, an auction, and plenty of booze. It’s a see and be-seen glam event. The pre-sale ticket price of $75 is steep ($90 at the door), but the party is one of the biggest annual fundraisers for the San Antonio AIDS Foundation (SAAF).
There isn’t much talk about AIDS anymore. Many think the crisis passed away. Not true.
Over the last few months University Health System (UHS) in Bexar County has launched a pilot program in their acute care centers and the hospital emergency rooms. The trials include automatic HIV screening, with an opt-out, but plans are to make the tests part of routine screening. UHS was expecting a 0.1 prevalence rate of HIV, but initial results are shockingly higher — 1.2 percent, over ten times the national average. UHS sees 77,000 individuals annually in their ER. That means we are not diagnosing over 700 HIV-positive people each year in Bexar County from this system alone.
The numbers tested are too small to constitute a statistically valid sample, but the results are frightening just the same. Why here?
San Antonio, like the rest of Texas, has long been designated a “late to care” community by the CDC, the nation’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “What that means is that people are not getting tested,” said SAAF Executive Director David Ewell. “They might be living with HIV for 10 or 12 years and not know they have the virus. They become severely ill and go to the ER and learn that not only are they HIV positive, they have advanced AIDS.”
Their probable future isn’t bright, explained Ewell. “At that point the treatment is only salvage medication because they are so far advanced with the disease.”
The highest group at risk is age 24 and younger, both straight and gay. To spread the word, SAAF goes into 14 school districts in SA to explain the consequences of the disease, but since Texas mandates “abstinence-based” sex education, they have to be vague on the details of contracting the disease. Ironically, knowledge by the young of advances in AIDS maintenance medicine hasn’t helped matters, either.
“I feel like some of them think, ‘All I have to do is take a pill and I’m going to live forever and be OK,’” Ewell exclaimed. “It’s wonderful that we have clients who are living longer with the disease, but there is no cure. Eventually they are going to succumb.”
While some still think of the WEBB Party as Fiesta’s most alt bash, it is first and foremost a SAAF fundraiser — for all of San Antonio.
“We don’t want to be known as a gay agency, we are here to help anyone who has AIDS, regardless of their race, sexuality, or whether they are homeless. It is not the gay community but the straight community that needs to wake up and get tested.” — Scott Andrews
$75 pre-sale (purchased online), $90 at the door, $55 student and military, 7:30pm-12am Friday, April 8, Historic Sunset Station, 1174 E Commerce, webbparty.net