New Jersey Government Officials, AIDS Advocates Attend First State Conference on AIDS in Latino Communities
December 22, 2003
The Elizabeth, N.J.-based Latino social service agency PROCEED, the Hispanic Directors Association of New Jersey and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services on Thursday and Friday held the state's first conference on HIV/AIDS in Latino communities, the North Jersey Herald News reports. About 300 people attended the conference, which included sessions on cultural issues in health care, pregnancy and HIV and safe-sex skills for Latinas. Although Latinos represent 13% of the population of New Jersey, they represent 21% of all HIV/AIDS cases in the state, Dr. Clifton Lacy, the state's health and senior services commissioner, said. In addition, although the number of new AIDS cases has declined among the state's general population, the prevalence rate among Latinos has remained steady at about 18%, Lacy said. Several speakers said that a single HIV prevention message would not be enough to address the disease among all Latinos. In addition, the speakers agreed that HIV remains a "shameful and taboo topic" in many Latino communities because the disease is associated with injection drug use, homosexuality and condom use, all of which are "frowned upon" in many Latino churches, according to the Herald News. Rev. Miguel Rivera, president of the National Latino Coalition of Ministers and Christian Leaders, said that it is "difficult" for conservative churches to address HIV, but ministers must discuss the disease in order to stop the spread of the epidemic, according to the Herald News. Charley Ferrer, a Latina clinical sexologist, said that Latinos must use condoms and begin to talk openly about sex, masturbation and sexually transmitted diseases with each other and children (Feibel, North Jersey Herald News, 12/19).
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