Catholic Mass in High-Risk California Latino Community Provides Consolation, Education About HIV/AIDS
Bishop Jaime Soto of St. Anne's Catholic Church in Santa Ana, Calif., officiated a special Mass on Sunday dedicated to Latinos who have died from or are living with HIV/AIDS, as part of an educational campaign to reduce HIV transmission rates in Orange County's Hispanic community, the Orange County Register reports. The second annual Mass on this theme, which was conducted in Spanish, drew more than 800 attendees and featured a display of the names of local Latinos who died from AIDS-related complications this year (Perkes, Orange County Register, 12/10). In order to "underscore the compassion needed" when dealing with those with HIV/AIDS, Soto chose to combine the memorial with the Mass for Our Lady of Guadalupe, which honors the Virgin Mary, because she symbolizes "maternal care and concern, and she excludes no one," Soto explained. Soto has also "has lent his name and face" to a county-wide HIV/AIDS educational campaign that is using informational billboards written in Spanish to "promote understanding about the disease." Orange County's AIDS Services Foundation Executive Director Dan Gleason said that the support and assistance of the Catholic Church is key for disseminating HIV/AIDS prevention information in the Latino community, since the church often serves as the "primary liaison" between secular groups and Hispanics. The "alarming" HIV/AIDS infection rate among Latinos has been attributed to a number of cultural barriers, including poor access to medical care, social taboos about sex education that lead to the perpetuation of "myths" and a reluctance to discuss homosexuality. Latinos accounted for 44% of Orange County's new AIDS cases last year -- nearly double the 24% in 1995 -- although they make up only 30% of the county's population (Lobdell, Los Angeles Times, 12/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.