Citing a 300% jump in AIDS cases reported in the county last year, the executive director of AIDS Care, a nonprofit organization for HIV-positive Ventura County residents, announced his resignation this week.
Reese Welsh, who became director of the AIDS support group in 1990, said his decision to leave his post April 3 was prompted by the "staggering growth" of HIV-infected clientele in the last year.
"We started out as a mom-and-pop operation with only 22 clients, but by the end of 1991, we had 92 clients," Welsh said.
"Nobody here expected this kind of growth."
Welsh, who operates the agency with two part-time workers, said the organization has been struggling both financially and physically to keep up with the demand.
"I have a clerical person and a caseload person and they both work more than full time, even though we only pay them half time," he said.
AIDS Care also receives help from nearly 100 volunteers who work with the staff, he said.
The 37-year-old Oakview resident said he had been planning to leave at the end of the year to finish work on his master's degree in public health and spend more time with his family.
But he decided to resign in April because he said the unexpected growth in AIDS cases demanded that someone with more experience take over.
He is searching for a new director.
AIDS Care was founded in 1985 by activists Chris Dye and Mark Vartanian, both of whom died of complications from acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
The agency provides volunteers to the Ventura County Medical Center immunology clinic, and offers public outreach programs, transportation and financial support to people who are HIV-infected.
It also has a one-on-one program for people who are dying from the disease.