ALAMEDA COUNTY: AIDS Still Hitting African American Community Hard
One year after Alameda County officials declared a state of emergency in the black community due to the AIDS virus, local groups still await the federal dollars promised to help in the fight, the Oakland Tribune reports. The problem only continues as African Americans comprise over 50% of the county's AIDS cases, although blacks only make up 17% of the population. But local efforts to target the black community with increased education and prevention efforts have "hit a roadblock," as Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson notes, "[the local groups] haven't been able to implement any of the changes ... [because they] haven't realized the money." Alameda County has been expecting federal funds since 1998, when President Clinton declared AIDS a national public health crisis among black Americans -- at the urging of the Congressional Black Caucus. Of the $156 million Clinton earmarked for the crisis, $5.1 million was awarded to Alameda County. Chip Brown, spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D), stated, "Money has been allocated to Alameda County. We just don't know if it has already reached ground level or is still in the government agencies."
Lack of Targeted Campaigns
A major problem facing the black community is a dearth of directed AIDS education and prevention campaigns. Typically, AIDS outreach efforts have targeted homosexual men -- who have "made great strides" in avoiding the disease. But Alameda County physician Robert Scott noted that the AIDS epidemic has only worsened in the county population over the past year; the percentage of new AIDS cases has grown from 51% African American to 54% this year. Nationally, although comprising 12% of the U.S. population, African Americans make up almost 37% of all reported AIDS cases. Alameda County public health department representative Sherri Willis remains hopeful about improving the county's situation, saying, "People don't have to get this disease -- it's incredibly preventable. It's an argument for prevention and education, and just vigilance." Willis noted that the county's public health department is expecting approximately $1.5 million in state funding, earmarked for "technical assistance, data collection and disease tracking work," but has yet to receive any of the money (Kagan, 12/1).