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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
NEW YORK: An Education in Prevention
John E. Thomas
December 15, 2004
Newsday (12.08.04) - Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Forum is one of a handful of New York City organizations bridging the gap between minority communities and HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention and education resources.

The Forum began as a volunteer group. "Social workers saw that Hispanics were not being targeted and informed about the disease in their own language," said Miguel Bonilla, spokesperson for the nonprofit. Twenty years after its founding, the Forum provides services from its headquarters in Manhattan and from satellite offices in the Bronx and Woodside. Many in the Hispanic community resist HIV testing out of fear of giving blood and because they fear being diagnosed with a disease perceived as a death sentence, Bonilla said.

As the Forum serves Hispanics, so the Manhattan-based Asian and Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS serves its community. "Our job is more complicated, because we have to speak so many different languages," said Yumiko Fukuda, program director. Most of its 30 staff members speak at least one Asian language.

Many of the people the group serves are immigrants, Fukuda said. Prevention is made more difficult by the fact that sex is not discussed in some cultures; some Asian languages do not even have names for the genitals, so counselors supply the basic sex education that parents did not provide.

There are similarities between the two cultures, however: Bonilla and Fukuda both said the most common fears about HIV deal with how the patient will be judged by family and the community.