HIV/AIDS: Organization Chief Targets Minority Communities
As the only black executive director of a national AIDS services organization, Cornelius Baker, the HIV-positive head of the National Association of People with AIDS, is a "field commander in the war" against the epidemic, particularly in minority communities, according to a Sacramento Bee profile. Baker has been instrumental in making sure that AIDS services are directed at minority communities, which face a disproportionate rise in HIV cases. Baker, a liberal Republican who served in the Bush administration, has restructured NAPWA, founded in 1993 by 13 gay white men, to reflect the changing demographics of the epidemic -- 50% of his 21-person staff is African-American and 15% is Hispanic. Although blacks comprise 12% of the national population, 49% of all AIDS deaths in 1998 occurred among African Americans, and those statistics are expected to climb this year. Additionally, black, gay, teen boys are six times more likely to contract HIV than other gay teen boys. Baker said that those statistics should serve as a wake-up call to the community. "The numbers will force people to say, 'How do we reach this community?' That was what the early numbers did in propelling people to sit down and talk to white gay men," he said, adding, "The black community has to say, 'This is something we want, something we are going to will for ourselves.'" AIDS activists like Baker are saddled with a difficult task, as an increase in "AIDS funding fatigue" has reduced the amount of money donated to fighting the epidemic. In addition, activists are battling with drug manufacturers to reduce the price of costly HIV treatments. Baker, who insists that he is "healthy as an ox" despite not taking any HIV drugs, said that ending the epidemic "begins with every person knowing their HIV status. And it can only end if every person is part of the solution in preventing new transmissions." He concluded, "We all have responsibilities. I am a gay man, and I am a black man. There's an epidemic in this country. And there's one in this world that is taking, potentially, 40 million lives with it. And I simply couldn't imagine not being involved" (Price, Sacramento Bee, 11/12).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.