New AIDS emphasis advocated

December 18, 1990|By John Fairhall | John Fairhall,Evening Sun Staff

Black experts on AIDS are calling for new prevention and treatment programs tailored to minority communities in a refocused effort that they say is needed because of a distrust of government by many blacks.

At a conference in Baltimore yesterday, experts told the National Commission on AIDS that black community leaders have responded slowly to the epidemic, which has hit blacks in large ** numbers.

Of 3,099 AIDS cases in Maryland since 1981, more than half, 1,864, involve blacks.

Among the reasons cited for the slow response are that existing programs in black communities often aren't led by blacks and that they don't adequately address black concerns and skepticism toward government.

The need for black-oriented programs is such that one witness asserted that a parallel commission or task force should be formed just for minorities. But Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, a commission member and U.S. secretary of health and human services, rejected the idea.

Sullivan, who is black, said "there is a lot of expertise and history on this commission," and suggested that the commission itself be improved if necessary.

One expert after another said that blacks distrust government when it comes to acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Dr. Mark Smith, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Schooof Medicine, said that such distrust long predates the AIDS epidemic.

He said he has often heard that blacks in East Baltimore warned their children to stay away from Hopkins Hospital for fear the youths would be abducted and used in scientific or medical experiments.

Blacks also resent studies tracing the origin of AIDS to Central Africa, which suggests to some it's somehow the fault of black people, Smith said.

Whatever the causes of distrust, the experts said, black communities need their own programs, led by both new leadership sources and traditional ones such as churches.

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