'Comunidad' grant funds HIV/AIDS prevention work

Nuestra Comunidad Sana (Our Healthy Community) of Hood River has received a $5,000 grant from the McKenzie River Gathering Foundation to conduct an HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention program in the Hispanic community of the Mid-Columbia.

A significant force for Hispanic health since 1988, Nuestra Comunidad Sana (NCS) operates under the Promotora de Salud model in which well-trained lay health promoters take culturally appropriate health education and services to where people live, work and worship.

Project staff will include Adela Barajas, a Promotora de Salud with NCS since early 1999. She is Red Cross certified to conduct HIV/AIDS education specifically in the Hispanic community. Prior to her employment with NCS, she spent many years as a youth outreach volunteer with her church.

NCS will focus special efforts on empowering Latinas to speak up about sexual matters and protect themselves and their families from the devastation of HIV. Although national estimates indicate that HIV is spreading up to four times faster in the Hispanic/Latino community than it is overall in this country, most cases of HIV among Hispanics are contracted heterosexually.

According to Barajas, it is vitally important for the Hispanic community to be aware of that fact, and to take appropriate measures to protect itself.

Jerry Gabay, Executive Director of NCS describes the project this way: “By helping women overcome their fear and reluctance to think of themselves and speak openly to their partners and families about sexual and other health issues, we will also help the community prepare to deal with other challenges to the health and well-being of the growing Hispanic population. It is very important to conduct this project now, before Hispanic HIV infection rates soar in the Mid-Columbia.”

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