A new study offers several possible reasons AIDS prevention messages are failing to reach minorities in Chicago.
University of Chicago researchers conducted seven focus groups comprising 70 college students. Those represented included blacks, whites, Latinos, males, females, and gay men. Among the study's findings:
- The legacy of the Tuskegee Experiment, in which researchers deceived impoverished African Americans into taking part in a study so they could secretly document how syphilis destroys the body, continues to be evident in a distrust of the government. "These youth are surprisingly aware of the racial history of the US," said Anjanette Chan Tack, a doctoral student who worked on the new research. "There's been a disconnect between government and health institutions in the black community," said Cathy Krieger, president of the Children's Place, the non-profit that funded the study.
- Participants noted a decline in AIDS awareness media campaigns, which made them feel left out. "They said, 'They're worried about AIDS in Africa, but not with us,'" Chan Tack said.
- Some in the Latino community viewed taking the HIV test as an admission of guilt.
- Participants said they found members of their own communities more credible spokespersons than the celebrities typically enlisted for awareness campaigns.
"I think we've been beating people over the head with it so much; maybe that's not the best approach," said Johnathon Briggs, a spokesperson for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. "That's precisely why we're trying to move away from campaigns and talk more about a movement." AFC is working to reach more young people with peer-to-peer messaging, Briggs said.
The study will be presented Friday at the Illinois Youth and HIV/AIDS Forum at the Chicago Cultural Center.
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