AddThis ShareCONTACT: B.J. Almond PHONE: (713) 348-6770 E-MAIL: [email protected] Panel discussion at Rice University Oct. 29 will address problems of AIDS in Houston’s black communityPanelists will include politicians, religious groups and health-care specialists “AIDS Off the Radar: The Black American Epidemic” will give policymakers, health-care workers and community leaders from the Houston area a public forum at Rice University for discussion of the No. 1 killer of African-Americans between the ages of 25 and 44. Students, teachers, clergy and other interested members of the community are welcome to attend the free conference from 9:45 a.m. until 2 p.m. Oct. 29 at Baker Hall. Hosted by the Baker Institute Student Forum, the event is intended to foster dialogue among three groups that are concerned about the spread of AIDS in the black community: members of nongovernment organizations and government organizations charged with reducing AIDS among African-Americans; politicians concerned about health; and community leaders – both religious and nonreligious. Three panel discussions are planned, each focusing on a different angle: the pathology and prevention of HIV infection, managing the disease, and associated social and monetary costs; why AIDS is a problem in the black community; and how to stop the spread of AIDS among blacks in Houston. A question-and-answer session after each discussion will allow members of the audience to share their concerns and tap the expertise of the panelists, which include representatives of Houston City Council, the City of Houston HIV Prevention Program, AIDS Foundation Houston, Families Under Urban and Social Attack, Brentwood Baptist Church, the University of Houston, Houston NAACP, the Community of Faith, WAM Foundation, the office of State Senator Rodney Ellis, Saving Lives Through Alternative Options, the Fountain of Praise, St. Hope Foundation, Positive Efforts, University of Alabama, the Warren Corporation and Rice University. Mark Little, a Rice graduate student in earth science who organized the conference, acknowledged that these religious and nonreligious and government and nongovernment organizations may have conflicting approaches to dealing with the problem of AIDS. “My hope is that people who may disagree on many other things can see this as something they share in common,” he said. “At the very minimum, if these people are in the same room, see each other and make contact for future reference, this conference will help make progress toward addressing the epidemic in the black community. Maybe they can work toward their goal in their comfort zones and begin to feel OK working together.” Little encouraged the panelists to invite young people to the forum. “Whether they are members of your congregation, your patients or members of your organization, it is vital that we have as many young people as possible asking questions and participating,” he wrote in his invitation to the panelists. The need for a program like this is evident by the alarming statistics, Little said. He noted that although African-Americans make up 18.5 percent of Houston’s general population, they account for 56 percent of the reported adult HIV cases. A third of new cases of HIV in the U.S. are heterosexually transmitted, and 74 percent occur in blacks. The death rate from AIDS remains nearly 10 times higher among African-Americans than among whites. Preregistration for the program is not required. For information on parking at Rice University, 6100 Main St., see the campus map at www.rice.edu/maps .