The speaker said intravenous drug use by blacks is a contributing factor to the spread of AIDS.
By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Members of the Youngstown Minority HIV/AIDS Coalition and the Associated Neighborhood Centers stressed the need for black Americans to take a close look at the detrimental effect HIV/AIDS is having in the black community.
The Thursday meeting and focus group session was in observance of the second annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The local groups joined cities nationwide to emphasize the devastating effects of the disease on black Americans.
No. 1 killer: Steven Mickel, assistant director of Associated Neighborhood Centers, said AIDS is the No. 1 killer of black men and women 25 to 44. He said black men, women and children have a higher case rate per 100,000 individuals than do whites.
"We need this day and many other days to stem the tide of devastation in the black community," he said.
"This is not a black problem, it is an American problem. HIV and AIDS can no longer be dismissed as a gay thing or an immoral thing; it is here and it is killing us."
Mickel said there are a number of reasons for the high rate of infection among black Americans. One of those reasons is the number of blacks who use intravenous drugs, he said.
Another reason is the number of men who are having sexual relations with other men. Mickel said many of these men do not consider themselves homosexual and are also involved with women.
Attacking the problem: Mickel said there must be a three-prong attack on the problem starting with education. He said black people must be made to understand the disease and how it is spread in order to make informed lifestyle decisions.
Blacks also must be encouraged to be tested for the disease. He said there also should be encouragement to change any habits considereddangerous to decrease risks of infection.
He said the third thing that must be done is to increase community involvement to combat the disease and the virus that causes it.
Mickel closed by telling the audience that the black community must gain control over this situation now or Black History Month could become known as Black Legacy Month should the black population be decimated by AIDS.