BERKELEY: Officials Try New HIV/AIDS Awareness Strategies
Health officials in Berkeley are using new strategies "to grab the attention of groups who have proven vulnerable to HIV, yet tough to reach," the Contra Costa Times reports. Armed with a $785,000 grant from the state Office of AIDS, workers will "dangle [condoms] from trees like Christmas ornaments" and employ African-American gospel groups and Latino drag queens to "flavor" their health messages. State and local health officials say Latino day laborers, the homeless, gay teens, and low-income African Americans "aren't paying much heed to the usual public service warnings." In 1998, African Americans comprised 43% of the city's AIDS cases, up from 19% in 1989. Latinos comprised 20% of new HIV cases in 1998, while only comprising 10% of Berkeley's population. City health officials plan to work with five area churches for three months to help them apply for grants for HIV/AIDS programs and offer materials and HIV testing. Officials also hope to incorporate their message into gospel music, with musicians giving testimonials about AIDS and warning their congregations to avoid risky behaviors. To reach Latino men, drag queens -- popular in some Latino bars -- will include public service messages in their acts. Finally, officials will "hang condoms in little plastic bags on the trees" aimed at an "elusive group -- men who meet for sex in public bathrooms, parks and adult bookstores." Although these methods might appear unusual, Harold Rasmussen, chief of education and prevention at the state Office of AIDS, said that "Berkeley has always been a pioneer" (Ferris, Contra Costa Times, 2/25).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.