Santa Clara, CA Vignette
Creating Dialogue among the Community and Local Organizations
Located in central California, Santa Clara County has a total population of 1,600,000 living in both urban and rural areas. A long-standing rift among the county's HIV/AIDS Program personnel, the local community of persons living with HIV/AIDS, and providers of nonprofit, private HIV/AIDS care in the county played out in the relationship between the county's AIDS Health Services Program and the HIV Health Services Planning Council. The council is a group of community volunteers convened by the County Board of Supervisors to plan a comprehensive system of care for people living with HIV or AIDS.
The county routinely disregarded the recommendations of the planning council. It also was uncooperative in sharing usage and demographic data about the population using local services. The level of mistrust between the two entities had accelerated to the point of mutual antagonism, disrespect, and hostility.
In 1998, a new manager was hired to head the county's HIV/AIDS Program. To break down the barriers between the HIV/AIDS program staff and the planning council, the county offered to pay for dialogue training for council members and county staff.
The sessions exceeded expectations; it transformed the relationship between the HIV/AIDS Program and the planning council. The two entities now work in a spirit of mutual respect and trust. Dialogue training created the opportunity for this change, as it presented both groups with an opportunity to share their feelings and perceptions and begin to eliminate misconceptions and barriers to effective, meaningful communication.