AIDS problem growing in Baltimore Co.

March 27, 1992|By Patrick Ercolano | Patrick Ercolano,Staff Writer

A forum on AIDS among blacks and Hispanics last night presented statistics from 1991 showing that, for the first time ever in Baltimore County, the number of acquired immune deficiency syndrome cases among minority people exceeded the number of cases among whites.

The Minority AIDS Forum was attended by about 100 local black and Hispanic leaders. Their stated goal is stemming the spread of the disease among minorities, largely by establishing community-based AIDS awareness programs.

The program at the Liberty Family Resource Center in Randallstown was sponsored by the county Department of Health's AIDS Division and the AIDS Administration of the state's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

A panel of four local AIDS experts made a sobering report to the group, which included state and county health officials and local clergy.

Dr. Randy Berger, the director of the AIDS Division, said there were 31 minority AIDS cases and 26 white AIDS cases in the county last year. By comparison, there were 22 minority cases and 32 white cases in 1990.

The minority population of Baltimore County is 13 percent, according to Dr. Berger.

She added that she viewed the increase in the awareness of AIDS among county residents as a positive development. Since basketball superstar Earvin "Magic" Johnson revealed last fall that he has the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS, the number of people asking county health workers for information about the disease has jumped from 100 to 200 a month, she said.

Larry C. Simmons, the coordinator of the AIDS Administration's Division of Ethnic Community Programs, cautioned that the disease is entering a "third wave" in which most people contracting AIDS will be heterosexuals of all races. The first two "waves" consisted of gay men and intravenous drug abusers, respectively, dating to when the disease started being monitored a decade ago, said Mr. Simmons.

"The potential with this third wave is far greater than what we've seen with the first two waves because, with heterosexuals, we're dealing with a much larger population group," he added.

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