AIDS Prevention Program for
Ethnic Minorities: The Comunidad
y Responsibilidad Project
Merrill Singer, William Gonzalez, Evelyn Vega, Ivonne Centeno, and Lani Davison
It has become an adage among acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) workers that AIDS does not discriminate. Anyone who engages in a small number of identified risk behaviors can become infected ( Friedland and Klein 1987; Friedland et al. 1990). True to its nonchauvinist nature, the virus is known to invade and reproduce itself effectively in males and females, individuals of every age, and all ethnic and racial groups. People, however, do discriminate. As a consequence of prejudicial attitudes and practices, as well as social stratification in access to resources of all kinds, some subgroups within U.S. society are more at risk for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection than others ( Brown and Primm 1988). As M. Sufian et al. ( 1990:131) indicate,
Ethnicity/race is a social structure of extreme importance in the United States. Ethnic/ racial differences may affect life chances, worldviews, the probability that one will become a drug user, drug use behaviors, the probability of having sex with drug users, whether a person becomes infected with HIV, and more.
Hispanics generally, and Puerto Ricans in particular, are a socially, economically, and culturally oppressed group that is overrepresented in AIDS prevalence statistics. Overall among Hispanics, the rate of AIDS is almost three times that of the non-Hispanic population. Moreover, Hispanic AIDS patients have a shorter survival period than white AIDS patients, and the number of Hispanic AIDS cases has been rising at a faster pace than in the general U.S. population. While Hispanics comprised 12.9 percent of the total number of AIDS cases nationally in June 1981, currently they constitute 15 percent of known cases ( Singer et al. 1990). In the Northeast, where Puerto Ricans are the predominant Hispanic subgroup, the relative risk for AIDS is seven times higher among Hispanics than whites ( Selik, Castro, and Pap