HIV/AIDS: HHS Teams to Target Black, Hispanic Areas
Later this month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will send "crisis-response teams" to Miami, Philadelphia and Detroit to assess current HIV/AIDS efforts and make recommendations, at a later date, "on how to craft prevention and treatment strategies for black and Hispanic communities." The teams will stay in each city eight to 10 weeks and meet with "local officials, public health personnel and community-based organizations" that serve minorities with HIV/AIDS. The $156 million designated last year by the Clinton administration to combat AIDS among blacks will pay for the teams. U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek (D-FL) said, "With some of the best minds in the country helping us, we can wage a tough battle on this epidemic. While other areas of the country are getting healthier, our community is getting sicker." Miami has the third highest rate of AIDS cases in the nation, and last year, blacks in Florida comprised almost half of all AIDS cases among males and three- quarters among females. Joe Ramallo, spokesperson for Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, said, "The team will look at how we are directing our prevention messages as well as care and treatment dollars within the minority community and see if there are ways to better utilize those resources" (Robinson, Miami Herald, 6/16). HHS Secretary Donna Shalala announced yesterday, "Our interest is in helping people who are already getting good results in tough situations do even better. Further targeting our interventions could save lives." To be eligible for this assistance, cities had to have populations of at least 500,000 persons and at least 1,500 African-American or Hispanic persons living with HIV/AIDS. Also, these minority groups had to account for at least 50 percent of the community's HIV/AIDS cases. Once a city qualified under these criteria, the chief elected official in that community had to request that HHS dispatch a Crisis Response Team. Other communities currently scheduled to receive help include Atlanta; Baltimore; Chicago; Los Angeles; New Haven/Bridgeport/Danbury/Waterbury, C.T.; Newark, N.J.; Washington, D.C.; and West Palm Beach/Boca Raton, F.L. (HHS release, 6/16).
HHS on the Move
The New York Times/San Francisco Chronicle reports that HHS is "trying new approaches to AIDS prevention in black communities by requiring, for instance, that programs be administered mostly by minority staff." Megan Foley, an AIDS program analyst with the CDC, said, "We're definitely looking for organizations to design their programs with that cultural competence in mind." HHS is also granting $9 million this year to church-based groups and others that serve areas with high numbers of blacks with AIDS and syphilis (6/16). In a letter to the editor of Ebony this month, Dr. Eric Goosby, director of HHS' office of HIV/AIDS Policy, wrote that the HHS- co-sponsored National Conference on African-Americans and AIDS that he recently attended with 600 others in D.C. "was so successful and so hopeful that we are looking to make it an annual meeting." Noting the $156 million appropriation to fight HIV/AIDS in racial and ethnic minority communities, he also said, "I am optimistic about this new federal commitment. But money alone --no matter how much -- will never defeat AIDS. Every part of the community has to play a role in prevention efforts and in making sure that treatment is confidential and available" (Goosby, 7/99 issue).
Catching Up in Philly
"Nearly two decades after the first case of AIDS was reported in Philadelphia, with black males making up 70 percent of new cases, the city's black clergy yesterday pledged their unified support for efforts to combat the plague" with the unveiling of Project New Covenant, which will champion prevention, education, testing and treatment in the black community, the Philadelphia Daily News reports. Rev. Robert Shine, vice president of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia, said, "You can choose to ignore it, or you can decide to address it. We've decided to address it." He continued, "A major part of what we are trying to do is to destigmatize HIV. We must emphasize it is a medical condition like diabetes, hypertension or cancer. There are many ways to get it, but no matter how you contract this disease, the church announces today ... that we embrace those who have been stricken with this disease." Others involved in the project include Blacks Educating Blacks on Sexual Health Issues, the city's AIDS Activity Coordinating Office, Philadelphia Community Health Alternatives, the Youth Outreach-Adolescent Community AIDS Program and Bristol-Myers Squibb (Angeles/McPhail, 6/16).