Bay State anti-AIDS drive targets minorities

Massachusetts has initiated the nation's first statewide anti-AIDS program with specific goals targeted at minority populations. State health officials announced last Thursday that they had received a federal grant of $320,208 to fight the spread of AIDS among black, Hispanic, and other minority groups. Minorities have been seeking nationwide help through protests and resolutions during the past year. Other states have anti-AIDS programs run by agencies for minorities, but Massachusetts is setting up a year-round, budgeted program with specific goals to reduce AIDS among minority groups, says Beverly Hayes, assistant commissioner of the state Department of Public Health.

The Massachusetts grant comes from federal funds to prevent AIDS among minorities from the Centers for Disease Control, she says. Maryland is the only other state to receive these funds.

Ms. Hayes lists three basic project goals for the Massachusetts program:

An AIDS education and prevention program. Targeted groups are blacks, Hispanics, and Haitians. This program will also assess the needs in Asian, Native American, and Pacific Islander communities.

Community-based demonstration projects. It will fund 10 AIDS outreach and education projects.

An AIDS human resource library. A collection of AIDS resource materials.

``More than 900 people - people of all colors and ethnic backgrounds - have died from AIDS in this state alone,'' Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis said as he announced the grant to the Multicultural AIDS Coalition.

Politicians have been reluctant to discuss the spread of AIDS among minorities for fear of being criticized as racist, says Dr. Beny Primm, a physician and executive director of Addiction Research and Treatment Corporation in Brooklyn, N.Y., who has addressed both groups. ``They are afraid of backlash and wouldn't talk about AIDS until it spread so much that they could no longer ignore it,'' he says.

The spread of AIDS among the nation's minority populations was brought to national attention in August 1987 when the federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta held their first national conference on AIDS and minorities. The Centers announced that $7 million in public funds would be made available to minority organizations for AIDS prevention and education.

Reports presented at this meeting showed that AIDS affected blacks and Hispanics much more than whites. For instance, when compared with whites, 1.6 more black or Hispanic males who are gay or bisexual and not intravenous drug abusers are infected with AIDS. And 21.8 more blacks than whites and 20.8 times more Hispanics who are heterosexual intravenous drug abusers are AIDS-infected. These figures were compiled in 1987 by Dr. Roger Bakerman of Georgia State University, based on Centers for Disease Control data.

Among key activities across the country with the goal of bringing AIDS information to the attention of minorities:

Black civil rights groups have placed the AIDS crisis on their agendas.

Maryland set up a special department to coordinate spending for AIDS-prevention among minorities, says Erma Perry, coordinator of minority outreach in the Maryland AIDS Administration.

Florida has awarded funds to minority groups for AIDS-prevention programs after they protested, ``we want a piece of the pie.''

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