NAACP drive aimed at reducing cases of AIDS among blacks to begin today; Corporations joined organization to produce videos about disease


Pledging to highlight the persistent epidemic of AIDS among African-Americans, the NAACP and several corporations will release a series of videos today on the disease's causes, preventions and treatments, NAACP officials said yesterday.

The announcement of the release, which is expected at a news conference in Washington this morning, comes as the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People begins its regularly scheduled quarterly board meeting at a Baltimore County hotel.

The three AIDS documentaries -- produced with DuPont Pharmaceuticals and AT&T; Broadband and Internet Services -- are vivid, sometimes graphic, depictions of AIDS patients and those who have lost relatives to the disease.

AIDS is the leading killer of blacks ages 25 to 44.

"This is the changing face of this epidemic," said Sandra James of Dupont. "It used to be that the gay white male community was the one we were concerned about. That has actually decreased, and the African-American community has surpassed it."

The 30-to 60-minute videos include statements from author Maya Angelou; Surgeon General David Satcher; Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat; NAACP President Kweisi Mfume; and NAACP Chairman Julian Bond.

They will present an overview of the disease's effects on blacks, a look at how it affects women and a portrait of some of those living with the disease.

Starting this month, the videos will be aired on cable channels nationally and distributed to churches, health clinics and each of the NAACP's 2,200 branches. In Baltimore, they will be aired on TCI Cablevision.

The release of the videos comes after about a year of collaboration between the NAACP and the corporations, a partnership sparked in part by critics who said civil rights groups weren't doing enough about AIDS.

Blacks make up 13 percent of the U.S. population and more than half of all new human immunodeficiency virus cases, said Caya Lewis, national health coordinator for the NAACP, noting statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among newborns and adolescents, blacks make up 60 percent and 63 percent, respectively, of new cases. Blacks and Latinos combined account for about 80 percent of new cases, she said.

"It's staggering," Lewis said. "The infection rates continue to stay high and increase. The reasons are complex."

Blacks tend to have less access to medical care and community support groups than whites, she said. Similar problems exist for intravenous drug users, whom health care professionals do not consider good candidates for treatment, she said.

The issue will probably be addressed by the NAACP's national board, which will hold closed meetings today and tomorrow at a hotel in Linthicum Heights. An open meeting consisting of reports from Mfume, among others, is scheduled for Saturday.

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