Winston-Salem Journal (08.09.03) - Tuesday, August 12, 2003
Martha Chica works for AIDS Care Service in Winston-Salem,
N.C., to find HIV-positive Hispanics and persuade them to
accept medical help and support. It's been an uphill battle,
she said. HIV still carries stigma in much of the Hispanic
community, and the language barrier makes it more difficult
for ACS to reach out to the people who need help. The rate of
infection for Hispanics is higher than the statewide average.
"What I found is that it is hard to identify the individuals
who are positive because they don't come forth," said Chica.
"They are so timid and scared. They only come forth when they
are close to death." Chica has started going out more in the
community to educate people about HIV/AIDS, working from an
office in the Central Terrace Methodist Church. A newly hired
assistant helps her.
Chica meets about one or two new patients a month, many of
whom are referred for medical care to the Infectious Disease
Specialty Clinic at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The
ACS program is making a big difference, said Jim Ausburger,
the HIV coordinator at the clinic.
The clinic draws from an area of about 30 counties. Workers
have a caseload of 56 Hispanic patients, with about five on a
waiting list to be seen when more space opens up, Ausburger
said. As many as 30 of those patients came to the clinic in
the past year because of the ACS program, he said.
Some Hispanic people worry that their care will not be
confidential or that they will be turned over to Immigration
and Naturalization Services if they go to the clinic.
Ausburger said that never happens. "I'm a nurse and my
physicians provide care. We don't work for the INS. Sick
people need care, and we provide that," he said.