By Leilani Clark
More than 2,000 people in Sonoma County currently live with HIV, according to the most recent statistics released by the Sonoma County Department of Public Health. What's more, 25 percent of those are unaware that they carry the virus, making efforts to offer cheap, confidential HIV tests important. To that end, Face to Face, a local nonprofit that has served Sonoma County since 1983, has begun offering confidential rapid oral HIV testing to the public in a partnership with the Drug Abuse Alternatives Center.
According to Heather Mylar, a benefits counselor at Face to Face, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, especially considering the limited hours for testing. The current goal is to get more people within the agency certified to do the testing, allowing for increased hours to better accommodate the large amount of walk-ins. "People say that they feel safe and relieved to be tested here, because we do not have a clinical environment," says Mylar. "We get people from all age groups and all genders; they are diverse and there are no stereotypes."
Confidential HIV tests are offered on Tuesdays, from 2pm to 4pm, at 873 Second St., Santa Rosa. Results arrive in just 20 minutes, and no appointment is needed. The organization suggests a $15 donation, but emphasizes that no one will be turned away due to inability to pay.
On Feb. 2, the Laguna de Santa Rosa Wetland Complex will be given the designation of "Wetland of International Significance" by the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty signed in 1971 which "protects wetland habitat through nonregulatory means by raising public awareness of the importance of wetlands in our global ecology."
The wetlands in Sonoma County are important enough without the international recognition, and not just for the migratory waterfowl and endangered plant and animal species that cohabit there. Lest we forget, those murky-looking bogs also provide entertainment to weekend kayakers, and more importantly, flood abatement, without which Forestville and other surrounding towns would spend much more time underwater then they currently do.
"We know the wetlands are important regionally and state-wide in terms of endangered plants, waterfowl migration and hydrology, but this puts us on the map internationally," says Hattie Daniels, conservation science program manager at the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, about the acknowledgement by the Ramsar Convention. "There are simply not that many locations in the United States that have received this designation, so we are ahead of the curve."
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