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Desert AIDS Project layoffs spark controversy

Vivian Valenzuela was laid off from Desert AIDS Project Friday morning, along with four others.

"Just leaves me sad, to this day, to this hour I am shocked," Vivian Valenzuela said.

The facility laid off five medical assistants to make room to hire five registered nurses with more education and experience.

"(I) kind of felt dumb-founded because I have never been written up, never called into the office for any behavioral problems or issues," Valenzuela said.

"We are opening up a new Hepatitis C clinic at Desert AIDS Project. Simultaneously, we are opening a new clinic to focus on HPV," Desert AIDS Project CEO David Brinkman said.

Brinkman said those new clinics call for different employees.

"We have decreased five positions in our clinic of folks who haven't worked in this field before or had this experience," Brinkman said. "We've had to let go of a few of our staff in order to hire staff with a higher level of education."

Valenzuela says she feels there is more to it, though.

"I feel there is a discrimination. If you look at the bunch that was terminated or laid off, we were all heterosexuals, all Latinas. I believe a few of us were wrongfully terminated," Valenzuela said.

Desert AIDS Project asserts these cuts cater to the needs of the new clinics.

"We have been out to hire some more advanced staff who has had opportunities in the past to be in practices like this," Brinkman said.

Meanwhile, Valenzuela had to deal with telling her kids the news.

"It's hard as a single parent to raise your children, but my children know I am a strong-willed woman and I will overcome this, as I did many obstacles in my life."

Once all the hiring is complete, the total number of employees at Desert AIDS Project will remain the same.

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