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Black AIDS: 'Our People, Our Problem, Our Solution'
Reprinted from LA Weekly | Author: Sara Cantania

Black AIDS. This is the way that activists and organizations in the African-American community have come to think of the virus. And no wonder, when one in 50 black men and one in 160 black women is HIV positive, when half of all the people dying of AIDS are black. Why, when the overall number of new cases of HIV infection is going down, does the percentage of blacks included in that figure continue to grow? Many AIDS organizations with an African-American clientele believe that part of the problem lies in black alienation from the types of prevention and treatment now being offered. In response, these groups are creating their own models, from a black-specific point of view. Here are a few.

"Our people, our problem, our solution." That’s the motto of the 2-year-old African-American AIDS Policy and Training Institute. Located south of downtown and affiliated with the University of Southern California, the institute bills itself as the nation’s only think tank devoted entirely to black HIV and AIDS. Last June, the institute launched a two-year training program to teach activists and others about AIDS in the black community. "It is rarely possible for outsiders to come in and solve other people’s problems," says founding director Phill Wilson. More information about the institute is available at its Web site,, or by calling 877-757-AIDS.

The Amassi Center first opened its doors in Inglewood in 1993. Driven by the vision of founder Cleo Manago, the Amassi Center is, in Manago’s words, "a cultural center with a health focus." In addition to HIV prevention and intervention, the center offers free mental-health services and free fitness and tutoring programs, while also sponsoring neighborhood street festivals. "If you just call it an AIDS clinic, black people are not going to come," he says. "You have to offer programs that affirm, support and nurture." Manago recently opened a second Amassi Center in Leimert Park Village. For more information on either center, call (310) 419-1969.

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