Alameda County Health Care Experts, Religious Leaders Hold Press Conference To Call for End to HIV/AIDS Stigma
Alameda County health care employees and church leaders said at an Oakland press conference Tuesday that they would work to "erase the stigmatization and silence" that surrounds and perpetuates the HIV/AIDS epidemic, especially among minorities, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/24). More than a dozen doctors, public health experts and religious leaders said that AIDS stigma "is seriously thwarting efforts to reduce infection rates, particularly in minority communities" (Shire, Contra Costa Times, 7/24). Dr. Robert Scott, an Oakland physician, said that stigma prompts many African Americans not to undergo HIV tests (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/24). "Stigma is the reason why (Alameda County) is still in a state of emergency," Michael Shaw, community coordinator for the Alameda County Office of AIDS Administration, said, adding, "The rates of HIV infection in communities of color continue to grow disproportionately" (Contra Costa Times, 7/24).
Oakland church leaders said that religious institutions were "partly" responsible for the stigmatization of individuals with HIV/AIDS. "We all know a lot of churches out there where, when [HIV-positive] people turn to them, they [are] judged," Father Stephan Kappler of St. Louis Bertrand Catholic Church said. He added that the "simple gesture of opening doors" to individuals with HIV/AIDS could help overcome stigma. Gloria Crowell of Allen Temple Baptist Church, which has an AIDS ministry, recommended that other churches establish such ministries and "collaborate with one another." Crowell also called for an Oakland "march against the silence surrounding AIDS" (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/24). African Americans accounted for 57% of Alameda County AIDS cases in 2000, and Latinos accounted for 14%, according to the Times (Contra Costa Times, 7/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.