U.S. Conference on AIDS To Focus on HIV/AIDS Prevention Among Minorities
The 2008 U.S. Conference on AIDS, sponsored by the National Minority AIDS Council, began on Thursday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and through Sunday will focus on ways to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in minority communities, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports (Lewis et al., South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/18). More than 4,000 government officials, health care workers and those living with HIV/AIDS are expected to attend the conference, which has the theme, "Looking Back, Moving Forward."
Also at the conference, Univision and the Kaiser Family Foundation unveiled a new Spanish-language awareness campaign, which uses personal stories of Hispanics living with HIV/AIDS and their loved ones to reach out to the Hispanic community. Damaries Cruz, a health educator for the Miami-Dade County Health Department who was diagnosed HIV/AIDS 17 years ago, will be featured in the PSA along with her mother, Milagros Pagan, who said it was difficult to cope with her daughter's condition because of stigma and lack of information. "I feel good about being in these ads," Pagan said, adding, "If it will help [Cruz] and others who may be in her situation or in the situation I was in" (Beras, Miami Herald, 9/18). The campaign -- "SOY..." ("I AM...") -- features 12 original public service announcements that will air on the Univision network and radio stations nationally, as well as HIV/AIDS information in Spanish and online resources. The PSAs begin airing on Oct. 15 and will run through 2009.
Univision journalist Teresa Rodriguez previewed SOY... at the conference during a special plenary session on HIV/AIDS and Hispanics. The session also featured SOY... participants "Dee" and "Milagros;" Carmen Zorrilla, an HIV-specialist obstetrician and gynecologist at the University Hospital in Puerto Rico; and Guillermo Chacon of the Latino Commission on AIDS. SOY...is an official media component of National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (Kaiser Family Foundation/Univision joint release, 9/18).
Since 2001, Univision and the Foundation have partnered on a Spanish-language awareness campaign called, "¡Enterate del VIH y SIDA!" ("Get the Facts About HIV and AIDS!") (Miami Herald, 9/18).
A webcast of the opening plenary for the conference will be available online.
Local HIV/AIDS advocacy groups in South Florida are taking "innovative approaches to break through cultural and language barriers" to reach minorities with HIV/AIDS messages, according to the Sun-Sentinel (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/18). The region, which includes the large metro areas Miami and Fort Lauderdale, has one the nation's highest percentages of residents living with HIV/AIDS, according to CARE Resource (Miami Herald, 9/18).
Roughly 30% of residents living with HIV/AIDS in Palm Beach and Broward counties are foreign-born, according to the Florida Department of Health. Experts contend that awareness messages targeting the foreign-born community must be culturally sensitive, be in the appropriate language, and address issues of isolation, misconceptions about HIV/AIDS and feelings of shame to be effective. Many new immigrants are uninsured and do not know about no-cost HIV/AIDS services.
Vela Pierre Massenat, an HIV outreach coordinator with the Comprehensive AIDS Program of Palm Beach County, gives away condoms and discusses sexually transmitted infections in Creole to target members of the Caribbean community. "People will listen to you more if you tell them exactly what's out there in their language," Pierre Massenat said.
Other programs in the area include efforts to target Hispanic women and minority men who have sex with men (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/18).