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Agency Plans Effort to Educate Latinos on AIDS Safeguards

February 20, 1986|CARMEN VALENCIA | Times Staff Writer

SANTA FE SPRINGS — Eunice Diaz points to an AIDS education poster and says it clearly shows why materials on the fatal disease must be developed for the Latino community.

The poster shows a mother clutching her adult son's hands, with red letters proclaiming, "Play Safely."

The poster--distributed by various agencies, including AIDS Project Los Angeles--is directed at gay and bisexual men. It lists sexual activities that are considered "safe" and those that are not.

"A Hispanic mother would not in a million years tell her son, 'Go out and play safely,' " said Diaz, a member of the Los Angeles City and County AIDS Task Force. Homosexuality, she explains, is not taken lightly or easily talked about among Latinos.

That's why Diaz has joined a number of advisers from the southeast Los Angeles County area who are helping Rio Hondo Drug Counseling Services Inc. put together a plan to get information about the deadly acquired immune deficiency syndrome to Latino residents. Rio Hondo Drug Counseling Services has offices in Santa Fe Springs and Norwalk.

Grants for Five Agencies

The agency is one of five in Los Angeles County that is slated to receive grants to spread information about AIDS among Latinos. The agency plans to hold a poster contest to come up with a campaign aimed directly at Latinos and will hold three conferences with the theme, "AIDS in the Hispanic Community."

"The message of AIDS has to be adapted culturally," said Diaz, who works as director of health promotion and community affairs at White Memorial Medical Center in East Los Angeles. "We have to build on the strengths of our culture to encourage people to practice safe behavior."

Supporters of the project say materials need to be developed now because the percentage of Latinos with AIDS--which destroys the body's immune system and leaves it defenseless against infections--has almost doubled in the past two years.

The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services said that, two years ago, 7% of those diagnosed as having AIDS were Latinos. Today, 13% of those being diagnosed are Latino, Diaz said.

A spokesman for the Department of Health Services said that as of Jan. 31, there were 1,468 cases of AIDS reported in Los Angeles County; 13%, or 186, were Latino. Of those Latino AIDS victims, 162 were male homosexuals or bisexuals and 12 were intravenous drug users, with the rest contracting the disease from blood transfusions, heterosexual contacts or in some undetermined way. The 2.6 million Latinos in the county account for about 32% of the population.

Follows National Trend

"It's fairly typical of what we're seeing nationally as well," he said.

The drug counseling agency will receive almost $15,000 to carry out the poster contest and the conferences scheduled for May 30, June 6 and June 13 in Santa Fe Springs, said John Brown, executive director of the Rio Hondo agency.

"Many of our clients are primarily Hispanic. We're motivated by the fact there is a lack of information in this part of the county for the Hispanic community," Brown said. Nationwide, intravenous drug users are second only to male homosexuals among AIDS victims.

An advisory committee will review materials already in place, and where there are gaps, produce new materials.

"There are more issues here than one of language. It's not enough to translate (existing materials) in Spanish. We want to make sure the information is culturally correct and sensitive to the people we're reaching out to," Brown said.

Once materials are approved, key leaders in the Latino community will be invited to attend the conferences. There they will receive packets of information to distribute in their own communities, said Anthony Lopez, chairman of the advisory committee and the community psychologist in Santa Fe Springs. At the same time, the agency will hold a poster contest with a $500 prize. About 20,000 copies of the selected poster will distributed throughout the county.

Contracts Signed

The grants are administered by the Department of Health Services for the federal Centers for Disease Control. The other organizations that were selected as grant recipients are Mendizza & Associates, Long Beach; Visiting Nurse Foundation, Los Angeles; All About Media Inc., Inglewood, and AIDS Project Los Angeles.

The contracts have been signed by the five organizations but were pulled from the agenda before final approval by the county Board of Supervisors last week, said Mario Sewell, administrator of the county's AIDS program office. He said the federal agency had added a last-minute requirement for a program review panel to make sure material is "appropriate and sensitive." He said that after that provision is added to the agreements, the grants should be back before the board by late March or early April.

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