Programs on AIDS criticized Minorities' needs missed, activists say.

March 26, 1992|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON -- The federal government is failing to address the vastly different needs of minorities with AIDS or HIV, from young black men in jail to immigrants from war-torn Latin American countries, activists charge.

And the activists fear that Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan would neglect minority communities today when he unveils a public education program aimed at curbing the spread of AIDS among teen-agers, women and those outside large cities.

"The needs of the African-American community are very different from the needs of the Latino community," said Paul Kawata, executive director of the National Minority AIDS Council, a non-profit organization that assists local AIDS organizations in minority communities.

"The truth is that the leadership of this country is not taking into account the . . . specific cultural and ethnic differences that we have," he said yesterday.

Nearly half -- 46 percent -- of the more than 209,000 people with AIDS are minorities, and their rate of infection is growing. For example, blacks made up 27 percent of the first 100,000 AIDS cases, but 31 percent of the second 100,000. Asian-Americans now account for the largest percentage increase in newly diagnosed AIDS cases.

But a report released yesterday, "The Impact of HIV on Communities of Color," found that the federal government does little to target different minority populations.

The report found that little attention and research has been focused on young blacks, especially those in jail, and black women who are at risk of transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus, which leads to AIDS.

It said that government education campaigns should present positive images of black homosexuals, to counter homophobia in the black community that has led some to deny the severity of the AIDS crisis.

The study faulted the government for not taking advantage of the strong influence of family ties in the Latino community in its AIDS prevention.

Among Asian-Americans, the report found that the federal government fails to consider the strong sexual taboos and family authority as barriers to effective AIDS education and prevention.

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