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National News

Denial, Stigma Hinder Minnesota Effort Against AIDS in Immigrants

July 25, 2002

Health officials in Minnesota have convened meetings to deal with increasing rates of HIV infection among African-born immigrants. A meeting in May invited leaders in the immigrant community to consider ways to promote HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. Strategies are difficult to develop due mainly to issues of stigma.

"There is such a stigma about AIDS that if we simply announce, 'Hey, come for AIDS education,' no one would show up!" said Redwan Hamza, an advocate in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis. "It's just not talked about."

"The thinking is 'we left it in Africa,'" said Ribka Berhanu, an immigrant from Ethiopia who works at the Minnesota AIDS Project. "There's a lot of denial, a lot of fear. HIV is still a death sentence in Africa, so no one want to talk about it."

"You can't just start handing out condoms without first increasing awareness," said Tracy Sides, a state epidemiologist. "The average American has been exposed to the AIDS issues for years, but you can't make that assumption for the African communities."

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Most of Minnesota's African immigrants are concentrated in the Twin Cities, with a handful in other cities like St. Cloud and Duluth. The latest census data found as many as 35,000 Africa-born people living in Minnesota, many of them refugees from civil wars in Somalia and Ethiopia. At the end of 2001, 266 Africans in Minnesota had HIV or AIDS. In all, about 4,300 people in Minnesota, out of a population of about 4.9 million, were infected, according to health statistics.

Health workers think the best way to get the word out is through translators who can write articles for newsletters and speak on radio or television stations. Ahmed Wassie, host of "Voice of Ethiopia," has been planning a half-hour show on AIDS for KFAI, a small community radio station in Minneapolis. He hopes to air the program in July or August. "I get a lot of calls whenever I mention AIDS. The majority are positive and people are glad I brought up the topic," Wassie said, though he also gets "a couple of calls" that are "really scary."

Back to other CDC news for July 25, 2002

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Associated Press
07.24.02; Gregg Aamot



  
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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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