Stigma, Funding Among Challenges HIV/AIDS Advocates in Rochester, N.Y., Face
Advocates who seek to raise HIV/AIDS awareness in black communities in Rochester, N.Y., are faced with a number of challenges, including determining how to "combat an epidemic that carries so many stigmas, without indicting a race of people," the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports.
In Monroe County, N.Y., roughly 14% or the county's population is black, and 56% of men and 65% of women diagnosed with HIV in 2006 were black, according to data from the Monroe County Health Department. Don Bruner of Rochester, N.Y.-based Black Men Latino Men Health Crisis said the black community has not yet "embraced the severity" of HIV/AIDS, adding, "We are 20 years behind. Everybody in Rochester knows somebody who knows somebody ... affected by AIDS. But how do we break the silence?"
Some advocates contend that prevention efforts should be tailored to minority communities and focus on increasing attention on the issue. Others contend that targeted efforts could stigmatize the black community and "create a misconception that the disease can only come to poor, black people," according to the Democrat and Chronicle. "I know it's affecting us more. But I don't want to make it a black issue," LaDawn Williams, a volunteer for the AIDS Community Health Center, said. Williams added, "There are so many people in this community that are infected that could be instrumental in speaking out, but because of fear of being stigmatized, they won't."
Funding is another issue advocates face. Efforts to address HIV/AIDS rates in Rochester's black communities are "mostly fragmented," and funding is "hardly reliable" despite an increase in money available for HIV/AIDS programs, according to the Democrat and Chronicle. Advocates "tug at whatever remains after money is directed toward medical care, housing assistance, research and international programs," the Democrat and Chronicle reports. In addition, guidelines to apply for federal HIV/AIDS grants have become more onerous, and those targeting minorities are limited, according to the Democrat and Chronicle. Paula Silvestone, executive director of AIDS Rochester, said, "We need people on the streets, mass media campaigns, black leaders, black ministers who step up to the plate and talk about this. But it oftentimes boils down to money" (Wang, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 3/31).