Utah's Refugee Services Office (RSO) is one of several organizations encouraging African community groups to hold HIV/AIDS education events in a bid to address fear and confusion on the part of many immigrants.
According to community members, rumors abound about people transmitting HIV to others or refusing treatment. "The community is very worried now. It's really spreading," said Joseph Nahas, an immigrant from Sierra Leone who works at RSO overseeing grants for refugee groups.
But whether HIV actually is increasing among Utah's African community is not clear. Newly analyzed data of state HIV diagnoses between 2007 and 2011 show roughly two-thirds of blacks with HIV were foreign-born, though this represented only 30 cases. Matt Mietchen, an epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health (UDH), said, "If they're getting here and are already infected, are we getting them the services they need? If they're getting it here, why and what can we do?"
"If we did some more systematic testing, we would maybe find out it really isn't a problem," said Heather Bush, HIV education specialist for UDH. She hopes to see the data broken out further, as some others states have done, to clarify whether HIV actually is a growing problem in Utah's African community. This knowledge would be key to accessing resources to target this population, she said.
Because HIV prevalence is so much lower in the United States than in Africa, a particular challenge is informing new arrivals that the virus exists here. "There's the perception that there's no HIV in the U.S. anymore," said Margaret Korto, a senior program analyst with the federal Office of Minority Health Resource Center, which is involved in the National African HIV/AIDS Initiative.
Back to other news for August 2012
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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