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AIDS awareness stressed at conference.

A number of events designed to raise awareness of AIDS and HIV awareness were included in the 69th Annual Congress of Cities held in New Orleans between November 28 and December 2.

The last day of the conference coincided with "1992 World AIDS Day" as declared by the World Health Organization. It is estimated that between 10 and 12 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, with more than 150,000 deaths attributed to the disease in the United States.

In one of the concurrent workshops held on the second day of the conference, councilmembers from the cities of West Hollywood, Calif. and Baltimore, Md. discussed program ideas on the topic of "The Municipal Role in Preventing AIDS". Both cities have made significant efforts to reach diverse populations with information and services aimed at combating the spread of the virus.

The workshop was moderated by Mayor James Scheibel of St. Paul, Minn. He urged those in attendance to wear the red ribbons provided at the session in support of the fight against AIDS and to work to change the sense of denial about the spread of the virus. Approximately 30 people attended the workshop. Scheibel spoke of the need for increased attendance at future AIDS related workshops and asked the group's assistance in reaching that goal.

West Hollywood has been hard hit by the disease with nearly 10 percent of its population living with HIV or full blown AIDS. Councilman John Heilman spoke of the municipal response to AIDS in a community that has suffered such a severe toll, including the loss of the City's founder to the disease. The city has produced an array of information pamphlets and posters in several different languages that are used to reach diverse communities.

It was emphasized that an AIDS education program must be tailored, sometimes using explicit language, if the message is to connect with the people that a city is trying to reach.

Heilman added that developing an HIV/AIDS information collection at the city's public library has proven to be an effective way to reach individuals who might not use information hotlines or visit a clinic.

Heilman also provided copies of a city produced manual that deals with the issue of AIDS in the workplace. "Working Together: AIDS and Other Catastrophic Illnesses in the Workplace" provides information on employee's rights, work environment accommodation and services available to the stricken employee. There are also sections of the document geared toward supervisors and co-workers of persons with AIDS.

Councilman Carl Stokes of Baltimore stressed the need for the public to overcome the perception that AIDS is "someone else's problem." The Baltimore City Health Department has developed a network of outreach programs that provide services to the historically "hard to reach populations" employing a staff that reflects the diversity of the city. These programs promote AIDS education and prevention on street corners and in laundromats, in jails and detention centers, in businesses and churches.

Stokes shared copies of a newsletter published by the Center for Applied Nomadology, Inc. which is described as an "outreach tool for education and survival". Over 7,000 copies of "Street Voice" are distributed on the streets of Baltimore each month, addressing the risk of AIDS infection to IV drug users and and street hustlers. The November 1992 issue presents a pro & con forum on the City's needle exchange program drawn from interviews with current and former drug users. The publication is funded through the City Health Department using Ryan White Title I funds.

Baltimore also operates the Ujima Women's Outreach Program which provides HIV education and risk reduction messages to women who are not able to access health facilities. The program has operated from a van for the past three years, traveling the streets of the city providing a variety of counseling and testing services. In another program, runaway children are reached through peer and near-peer counselors who share HIV/AIDS prevention messages and walk through the HIV tesing process.

For more information contact Tom Sullivan, National League of Cities, Municipal Reference Service (202) 626-3130.
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Title Annotation:National League of Cities
Author:Sullivan, Tom
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Dec 14, 1992
Words:682
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