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AIDS Taking an Uneven Toll in Minnesota

June 19, 2007

Minneapolis, MN. - State health officials say we're making slow progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS with some exceptions. Journalist and author Gil Robertson, holding a seminar in Minnesota today, says while African-Americans are only 4 percent of the state's population, they accounted for 20 percent of the new cases last year. He says it's because of a unique set of circumstances.

“[It’s a matter of] access to care and also access to information. There are also some cultural reasons, such as secrecy, denial, stigma that have also contributed to the high number count of African-Americans who are HIV-infected.”

He adds that while more people are living longer with HIV, not everyone can afford the needed expensive medical treatments. State health officials say there were 318 new cases reported last year, but they didn't affect every demographic equally. Robertson wants to target educational efforts and medical resources to communities most in need.

And he notes that the high HIV rate is taking a huge toll.

“The African-American community is losing vital participants. Children are losing their parents. Parents are losing their children. We're losing teachers, doctors, accountants and other important people who make that community what it's worth.”

The face of the disease has changed. Early on, it was identified with gay men. Now, in the black community, over two-thirds of the new HIV cases are among women. And, there's an increase in the Hispanic community.

The forum is free and open to the public. Robertson's latest book is "Not in my Family: AIDS in the African-American Community." More online at www.notinmyfamily.com.

Jim Wishner/Jamie Folsom, Public News Service - MN