Cook County, Ill., HIV/AIDS Prevention Campaign Targets Asian Populations
The Asian Health Coalition of Illinois, financially backed by the Cook County Department of Public Health, is launching the first HIV/AIDS prevention and counseling campaign specifically targeted at suburban Cook County Asians, the Chicago Tribune reports. Although statistics indicate that the target group is not at high risk for contracting HIV, public health officials worry that the group could be "unprepared" if HIV began to spread through the community. Organizers plan to distribute AIDS prevention-related foreign-language ads, train suburban doctors about cultural differences among Asian patients and survey Cook County Asians about "behavior and assumptions" that might increase HIV/AIDS risk. Campaign organizers say that outreach must be "tailor[ed]" to the diverse Asian population, which includes "refugees, computer programmers ... and devout Catholics" who speak Chinese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese. Although the county's Asian population grew 56% from 1990 to 2000, AIDS resources for Asians have remained "scarce," according to the Tribune. A report commissioned by the CDC on AIDS in the Midwest said that there is an "alarming" lack of HIV/AIDS resources for Asians in the region, which could "resul[t] in the potential for a future wave of infections." The campaign's focus on the suburbs is "an acknowledgement" that the usual means of providing health care to minorities "just don't apply with Asians"; Asians are the only minority group more likely to live in the suburbs than in the city, according to a Brookings Institution analysis, the Tribune reports.
Although suburban Cook County currently reports only 15 Asians who have HIV/AIDS, health officials are concerned about possible underreporting of cases among the population. In addition, officials "worry that the problem is being masked," because Asians who are surveyed about AIDS knowledge and risk factors are "lumped" in with other minorities in the "'other' designation." The CDC reports that "only a few hundred" Asian Americans contract HIV each year, compared with a rate among Hispanic Americans that is "more than 20 times higher" (Avila, Chicago Tribune, 1/21).