By Matt Leingang
The Cincinnati Enquirer
OVER-THE-RHINE - If you're going to volunteer for a cause, pick one that
matters, said Debbie Kilgore as she walked the streets of Over-the-Rhine on Saturday.
Harper (left) and Carrie Schmid, of AIDs Volunteers of Cincinnati,
help load up volunteers with Condoms to be handed out in Over-the-Rhine
For Kilgore, that cause is stopping AIDS, a devastating disease for all populations but one that is disproportionately hitting African-Americans in Greater Cincinnati and throughout the nation.
"It's ruining my people," said Kilgore, 43, an African-American and mother
of two from North Avondale who had a cousin die of AIDS in the early 1990s.
Kilgore and three other volunteers spent the day in this neighborhood handing out condoms, along with brochures containing information on where to get tested for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Volunteers fanned out across the nation Saturday, the fourth annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness and Information Day.
While African-Americans represent about 12 percent of the country's population, they have accounted for 38 percent - more than 347,000 - of the 886,000 AIDS cases reported in the U.S. since the beginning of the epidemic, and more than half of the 42,000 new AIDS cases in 2002 alone.
The numbers are similar in Greater Cincinnati, where an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 people are living with HIV. As many as 25 percent of those people don't know they have it because they have not been tested, said Kathryn Thompson, director of education at AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati, a non-profit agency based in Over-the-Rhine.
| LOCAL HIV CASES
Hamilton County: 1,593
Butler County: 174
Warren County: 56
Clermont County: 39
All of Ohio: 12,698
Note: Numbers reflect only persons
who tested positive for HIV and were confidentially reported.
As of June 2003, total
AIDS cases, living and deceased, in the Northern Kentucky Area District
was 327. The district includes Boone, Campbell, Carroll, Kenton,
Gallatin, Grant, Owenton and Pendleton.
Sources: Ohio Department
of Health; Kentucky Cabinet for Health Services
AIDS Volunteers organized Saturday's outreach effort. The agency - founded in July 1983, shortly after the first local cases of AIDS were diagnosed - provides case-management services for more than 1,500 people.
About 50 percent of its client base is African-American.
For African-American men, the leading cause of HIV infection is sexual contact with other men, followed by injection drug use and heterosexual contact, according to the CDC. Among African-American women, the leading cause of infection is heterosexual contact, followed by injection drug use.
Race itself is not a risk factor for HIV infection. However, health officials say African-Americans are more likely to face challenges associated with risk for HIV infection, including: poverty, substance abuse and denial.
"I believe many African-Americans are afraid to talk about their sexual behaviors because of certain stigmas. They think it's still a gay, white disease," said Danny Lewis, an African-American who works as the minority outreach educator with AIDS Volunteers.
Stigmas deter African-Americans from getting tested, Lewis said. If they do get tested, it's often late in the game - resulting in missed opportunities for treatment that can protect their health.
Late testing also delays the adoption of behaviors - abstinence, condoms - that can prevent infecting a partner.
Last year, AIDS Volunteers began offering the rapid "finger prick" HIV test, which can give results in 20 minutes. Since then, about 100 people each month are getting tested at the agency.
wins turf wars at many schools
laws could backfire
warn African-Americans about AIDS threat
become family during cancer treatment
gives mothers special time with sons
found after 5 years
women told to help themselves
IN THE TRISTATE
family applauds choice to help out in Africa
gives parent advice
wading into debate on biology
crash survivor cheats death a second time
things happening: Group
can't play, sings for Ashcroft
things happening: Faith matters
Ann Loretto Connell, longtime teacher
Milner wrote laws, taught school
racing chairman finding legs
to name highway for Ky. hero of Vietnam
bemoan state school budget
High School forms new booster club
asks to withdraw her plea
jellybeans lead to lawsuit
criticizes racing board
affairs soldiers learn combat skills
just moseys away from job at prison dairy barn