NASTAD Releases Guide for Responding to HIV/AIDS in the African-American Community
The National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) yesterday released its new monograph, " HIV/AIDS: African American Perspectives and Recommendations for State and Local AIDS Directors and Health Departments," calling it a tool to "bolster the response of state and local AIDS directors to the national HIV/AIDS crisis among African Americans." According to NASTAD Chair Mark Loveless, the report "comes at a critical time" in the course of the disease in the black community (NASTAD release, 12/5). The report notes that almost half of all newly reported AIDS cases in the United States are among African Americans, and AIDS remains the leading cause of death for blacks between the ages of 25 and 44. The epidemic is worse among African-American sub-populations, such as men who have sex with men, injection drug users and youth.
Health Agencies Play 'Unique Role'
The report, prepared by NASTAD's African American Advisory Committee -- a group composed of HIV/AIDS staff from state and city health departments funded by the CDC -- states that it is "urgent that officials cultivate a deeper understanding of African Americans' needs and concerns about HIV/AIDS and expand their tools for intervening more effectively with African-American communities" because state health agencies, as providers of public health services and disease surveillance, play an "essential and unique role" in HIV/AIDS prevention and care in the African-American community. According to the report, HIV/AIDS program directors and staff members must understand the "historical underpinnings" affecting African Americans' perceptions of HIV/AIDS and the public health system. Stigma associated with the disease and with homosexuality and skepticism of public health department programs prevent many agencies from reaching their target audience. The report makes recommendations in five areas: uses and interpretation of epidemiological data, capacity building, coalition and partnership building, program implementation and behavioral research. NASTAD intends to use these recommendations to open a dialogue on HIV/AIDS with national AIDS prevention groups working with African Americans ("HIV/AIDS: African American Perspectives and Recommendations for State and Local AIDS Directors and Health Departments" executive summary, December 2001). "Not only does the monograph offer AIDS directors guidance, it will also enhance our working relationships" with such national groups, NASTAD Executive Director Julie Scofield said. NASTAD also is currently holding a workshop on the AIDS epidemic in the African-American Community in Washington, D.C. The workshop, which addresses African-American perceptions of the public health system and strategies for working with African-American communities, began yesterday and will run through tomorrow. Cathy Cohen, author of "The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics," was yesterday's keynote speaker (NASTAD release, 12/5). The monograph is available online at the NASTAD Web site.