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New York Times
U.S. Officials Criticized on Efforts To Curb AIDS Among Minorities
JON NORDHEIMER, Special to the New York Times
August 10, 1987
LEAD: Federal health officials were accused today of snubbing black and Hispanic community workers who could offer valuable assistance in fighting AIDS, which has spread disproportionally in minority communities.

Federal health officials were accused today of snubbing black and Hispanic community workers who could offer valuable assistance in fighting AIDS, which has spread disproportionally in minority communities.

Many black and Hispanic delegates to a two-day conference on AIDS and minorities sponsored by the Federal Centers for Disease Control here also complained that the conference was an example of what they called the Federal Government's slow and bureaucratic response to the AIDS crisis.

"An observable deficiency of this conference has been the lack of dissemination of important and practical resources and tools to enable the participation of minorities in the fight to stop the spread of AIDS," read a resolution adopted by nearly 100 of the black delegates and read aloud today at the final session of the conference.

"They gave us a lesson in AIDS 101 when all of us traveled here for a graduate course," said Brandy Moore, spokesman for the conference's black caucus.

Although nearly half of the AIDS cases in the United States involve white homosexual men, statistics show that acquired immune deficiency syndrome strikes black and Hispanic people at twice the rate of whites.

The disease is claiming an even higher rate among minority children born with AIDS, officials said, noting that 94 percent of pediatric cases in New York City involved black or Hispanic children.

The black caucus as well as a similar group of Hispanic delegates proposed that members of minority groups with experience in health care and drug abuse work, as well as AIDS victims themselves, be recruited by the Centers for Disease Control to help develop strategies to control the alarming increase of the disease. AIDS is spread primarily through sexual contact and the sharing of needles among intravenous drug users.

There were also individual calls at the conference for minorities to take political action to seek Federal money for education and prevention efforts in minority communities.

On Saturday the disease control agency announced that $7 million in public money would be made available soon to minority groups for AIDS education and prevention. The groups must apply to state agencies for the funds, which will increase to $10 million next year. Officials Cite Success

Despite the criticism, Federal health officials, seasoned veterans of confrontations with homosexual groups over control and financing of AIDS efforts, hailed the weekend meeting as a success and promised to use minority talent and experience.

Dr. James O. Mason, the director of the centers, said the airing of minority concerns was "one of the best things to take place this weekend."

When he asked the approximately 1,000 delegates assembled today if they thought another conference on AIDS and minorities should be held next year, he heard a chorus of shouts that a year was too long to wait. Individual delegates called for another conference in six months in which minorities would be given more responsibility for its planning.

Without committing himself, Dr. Mason indicated a greater openness to delegates' appeals. "Give us a call," he said. "Get on the phone with us. We need to hear your views and get your input. They will not be disregarded."

What was evident among all the participants at the conference was the difficulty of combatting the spread of AIDS in many minority communities where existing resources were already taxed by such social ills as drug abuse, teen-age pregnancies, homelessness, crime and illiteracy. 'Demand These Resources'

As the risk from AIDS is better understood, minority community workers want to get involved but find it difficult to obtain the resources for relatively minor expenses like mail and telephone costs, said Ravinia Hayes-Cozier, a leader in the New York City Health Department's AIDS program.

She said minorities should demand access to public funds made available to state and local health departments through grants from the Centers for Disease Control and other agencies.

"It's important that you go down to your Department of Health, not just as one person but in numbers, and demand these resources," she said.

David Brownell, a public health adviser for the centers, assured the delegates that the search for sound advice from minorities on AIDS was genuine. "What we need are programs based in reality that can successfully alter sexual conduct," he asserted.

Other speakers said the task was monumental.

Juan Ramos, deputy director for prevention and special projects of the National Institute of Mental Health, spoke of "awesome accumulation of all the unmet needs" of minority communities and their prevalent mistrust of Government. Changing Behavior of Addicts

Changing the behavior of drug addicts, was a particularly thorny challenge, other speakers said. Experts said many high-risk drug abusers shunned the use of condoms during sexual intercourse for many reasons, including their belief that condoms stigmatized them as possible carriers of the disease.

"It is tempting to say we can't deal with the addict problem of infection," said Dr. Harold Jaffee, the chief AIDS epidemiologist with the centers. "But there is no choice. We must do it."

However many of the community workers who attended the conference were skeptical of the promises of support.

"The C.D.C. needed us for this conference," said Dr. Shirley Gross, who directs drug abuse and other minority programs in parts of San Francisco. In perhaps one of the harshest views of why this weekend's conference was held she suggested that the Centers for Disease Control needed the meeting to demonstate to Congress that it was getting minority input to assure continued money for its programs.

"So when people back home ask me what I got out of the conference I'll tell them I got exactly what the C.D.C. wanted to give us."

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