Minnesota African World AIDS Day Encourages HIV/AIDS Awareness, Testing for Africans in State
Minnesota's first African World AIDS Day on Saturday was an opportunity for community members -- including physicians, politicians, organizations, educators, HIV-positive people and children -- to discuss the "growing crisis" of HIV/AIDS among Africans in the state, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. In 2003, African-born Minnesotans accounted for less than 1% of the state's population but about 20% of new HIV cases in the state (Millett, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 12/12). One obstacle to HIV/AIDS prevention is that the disease "bears a heavy stigma in African circles," which makes education difficult, Siona Nchotu, an HIV-positive Minnesotan who was born in Africa, said, Minnesota Public Radio reports (Galbally, Minnesota Public Radio, 12/10). "The people we see at our clinic, what they think about HIV is what a lot of people in Africa think about HIV -- it's a bad disease; it's a horrible disease; you will die; it's something you should be ashamed about," Dr. Omobosola Akinsete, a Nigerian physician who lives in Minnesota, said, adding, "People think you should never talk about HIV because people will scorn you, throw you out of your house [and] your children and family will not be welcome in their house, they'll talk about you in the community." Akinsete recommended that African religious and community leaders, as well as teachers and parents, talk about HIV/AIDS more often. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), who attended the African World AIDS Day events, discussed her visit to Africa and her efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the state and worldwide, according to the Pioneer Press. "As a community and as human beings, we need to be concerned about AIDS among us, right here in Minnesota," she said (St. Paul Pioneer Press, 12/12).
An audio version of the Minnesota Public Radio segment on African World AIDS Day is available online in RealPlayer.