ORANGE COUNTY PERSPECTIVE : Reaching Out in AIDS Education

Last October, the Orange County Health Care Agency sponsored an informal AIDS clinic in the heart of the Latino community in Santa Ana, and such efforts have been continued through outreach programs. More endeavors of this type are needed.

Four years ago, about one of every nine AIDS cases in the county was suffered by a Latino. That proportion is now up to about one in four.

A recent report says that while Latinos make up 9% of the national population, they account for 17% of the AIDS cases. This suggests that the problem probably will worsen in Orange County, where Latinos make up nearly a quarter of the population.

The fact that AIDS does not strike only gay men is not always known to newcomers to the United States. One caseworker says many Latino males arrive in Orange County from Spanish-speaking countries where AIDS information fails to emphasize that the virus strikes heterosexuals, too. They often arrive alone, and some patronize prostitutes, who may be infected.

Another problem is that some newcomers are illiterate, so that merely translating materials into Spanish for their benefit is no help. The county is to be commended for deciding to use fotonovelas, photographs in a comic-strip format, to reach such people.

The entire population needs as much explanation as possible of how the AIDS virus is transmitted and how to protect against it. Such innovative approaches are welcome.

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