Alameda County, Calif., Health Care Experts, Religious Leaders Hold Press Conference Calling for an End to HIV/AIDS Stigma
Alameda County, Calif., health care workers and church leaders at an Oakland press conference on Tuesday said they would work to "erase the stigmatization and silence" that surrounds and perpetuates the HIV/AIDS epidemic, especially among minorities, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/24). More than a dozen doctors, public health experts and religious leaders said that AIDS stigma "is seriously thwarting efforts to reduce infection rates, particularly in minority communities" (Shire, Contra Costa Times, 7/24). Dr. Robert Scott, an Oakland physician, said that the stigma prevents area African Americans from getting tested for HIV (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/24). "Stigma is the reason why (Alameda County) is still in a state of emergency," Michael Shaw, community coordinator for the Alameda County Office of AIDS Administration said, adding, "The rates of HIV infection in communities of color continue to grow disproportionately" (Contra Costa Times, 7/24).
Oakland church leaders acknowledged that religious institutions were "partly" responsible for the stigmatization of those with HIV/AIDS. "We all know a lot of churches out there where, when [HIV-positive] people turn to them, they [are] judged," Father Stephan Kappler of St. Louis Bertrand Catholic Church said, adding that the "simple gesture of opening doors" to all people at church without judging could help overcome the stigma. Gloria Crowell of Allen Temple Baptist Church, which has an AIDS ministry, recommended that other churches create such ministries and "collaborate with one another." Crowell also called for an Oakland "march against the silence surrounding AIDS" (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/24). African Americans represented 57% of Alameda County AIDS cases in 2000, and Latinos accounted for 14%, according to the Times (Contra Costa Times, 7/24).