By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published August 21, 2008
Black and Latino communities face an HIV/AIDS crisis in numbers that mirror the early years of the disease.
“It’s like the second wave of the pandemic,” said Irene Miranda, the director of the Atlanta Archdiocese’s HIV/AIDS ministry.
Troubling statistics of the disease show it is reaching deeper into minority communities and people living in rural areas of the region. In response, leaders at the Southeastern Conference of Catholic AIDS Ministers said they must reshape prevention and education programs with new techniques for different cultures.
The National Black Catholic Congress in 2007 adopted a new teaching curriculum on HIV/AIDS. It is used in the archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and it is up for consideration as a national model.
Martha Carter-Bailey, the director of the African Ancestry Ministry in the Diocese of Raleigh, N.C., said the program recognizes many young people are living in single-family homes or being raised with grandparents. It emphasizes adults talking to young people about the disease. Also, the program encourages sex be discussed openly within a faith setting, she said.
“It’s important that we teach our students about HIV/AIDS in our (Catholic) schools. Where else would you want it talked about?” she asked.
Leaders at the conference wanted the Catholic Church to be a leader in education by including HIV studies in the science classroom as well as studying society’s response to the disease in theology studies, she said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African-Americans in 2005 accounted for close to one out of two of the estimated 37,331 new HIV/AIDS diagnoses in the United States. Nearly 70 percent of people living with the disease in Georgia are black.
One of the leading transmissions of the disease for young black women comes from men returning from prison.
The church office surveyed 75 women in Clark County, N.C., and 35 reported they got the disease from their partner released from prison, said Carter-Bailey.
For Latinos, in 2005, HIV/AIDS was the fourth leading cause of death for Latino men and women aged 35 to 44, according to the CDC. They account for 18 percent of the new HIV/AIDS diagnoses, reported the federal agency based in Atlanta.
Miranda said the services developed in the 1980s during the early years of the disease have to be revised for new groups of people. She said it doesn’t do any good if an AIDS ministry in a parish cannot communicate with Latinos on sensitive sex-related issues.
Another challenge is how parental response calls for new ways to talk about prevention.
Carter-Bailey said she is learning that African immigrants are concerned about talk with sexual themes. She said children of these immigrants are not allowed by their parents to hear the frank talk she has with African-American teens. She said these parents tell her that these conversations are not part of their culture and they do not allow their children to attend these meetings.
The challenge forces her to find new ways to ensure immigrant children get the message in a way that is sensitive to African cultures, she said.
Ainhoa Tollinche, who teaches at a Catholic high school in the Archdiocese of Miami, said Latino parents she sees set different standards for their children, where the girls are expected to remain chaste and boys are encouraged to have sex.
“The message is completely different. What they are doing is contributing to spreading the disease,” she said.