Houston Targets Minorities in HIV/AIDS Awareness Efforts
Houston health workers are finding it harder to get their HIV awareness messages across to minority groups, according to the Houston Chronicle. Amidst reports of growing HIV infection rates among minorities, Houston Mayor Lee Brown last December declared a state of emergency, pressing the need for testing and safe-sex practices among the city's African-American and Hispanic communities. Brown also pledged $500,000 to launch the education and prevention plan, but that money was cut due to the city's budget problems. The city has funded 200 billboards, radio ads and public lectures, but critics say that is not enough. African Americans still make up 57% of the city's new HIV infections while composing only 25% of the total population, and HIV is also increasing among Hispanics, who make up 33% of the city's population and account for 17% of new infections. While homosexuals have "embraced" the battle against HIV, health workers find it "difficult" to discuss HIV with the minority communities that are hardest hit because they are wary of "imply[ing] that these risky lifestyles are more rampant among minorities." Health experts say the most effective intervention must come from within the communities themselves, and look to community leaders, athletes, and young adults to get involved. Some call for that involvement to start with the mayor, who is African-American. Brown points out that he has talked about HIV on local radio shows that target an African-American audience and wants to personally be tested publicly in front of City Hall. Houston Health Department HIV/AIDS Surveillance Coordinator Kaye Reynolds noted that it "doesn't make any difference whether it's African-American, Hispanic, white. They could be purple with green dots. The issue is behavior" (Houston Chronicle, 11/27).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.