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Seminar focus is AIDS, black community

The statistics are grim.

According to the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, almost 80 percent of children born with AIDS in Florida are black. Nearly 75 percent of all women with AIDS in Florida are black. Every hour, one black man, woman or child in the United States dies from AIDS.

Closer to home, Elizabeth Campbell, a hospice nurse, knows of at least three people in Tarpon Springs' black community who are HIV-positive. Campbell fears that without more education, that small number may grow into an epidemic by century's end.

"There's going to be a rude awakening in Tarpon," Campbell said. "It has hit home strongly."

The Citizens Alliance for Progress hopes to educate people tonight in an AIDS seminar aimed at the black community. Dr. Nagib Fares, an immunologist who works in the Pasco County Health Department's AIDS clinic, will answer questions.

People with AIDS or who have lost loved ones to the disease also are scheduled to attend. Adult participants are invited to bring children age 10 and older to the seminar.

"With education, there's always a chance that you can slow the virus down," Campbell said. "Being a hospice nurse, I'm always around AIDS patients and I know how real it is."

Gwen Perry, CAP's program coordinator, said the program is a response to increasing numbers of local AIDS cases.

"AIDS is here. It's living in our community," she said. "The community as a whole really needed to understand this disease and how to combat it."

Perry said poverty and lack of access to proper health care and information may be to blame for the disproportionate number of AIDS cases among African-Americans.

"I think we're really worried about the young people _ the teenagers that aren't practicing safe sex, and also the ones that haven't even started," Perry said. "We're not only hitting the teenagers but the families and youngsters too. It's a family problem."

Though the focus is mainly on the black community, Perry said people of all races who want to know more about AIDS are welcome.

"Everybody can learn about it," Perry said.

IF YOU GO

The Citizens Alliance for Progress will hold an AIDS seminar at 6:30 p.m. today at Union Academy Cultural Center, 401 E Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Dr. Nagib Fares, an immunologist who works at the Pasco County Health Department's AIDS clinic, will answer questions. Adults and children ages 10 and older are invited to attend. Pizza and chicken will be served. For information, call 934-5881.

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