One of the biggest problems in the fight against AIDS is convincing people that they can get it too, the U.S. surgeon general said last week. "In many minority and poor communities, people have not truly accepted that they can become infected with AIDS--that they are not immune," Richard H. Carmona said at a Thursday night symposium in Louisiana about health problems more prevalent among poor people and minorities. Carmona noted that African-Americans and Latinos in the United States are more likely than whites to get the disease. "This has little to do with genetics. More than 99% of the genetics of everyone, everywhere, are the same," he said. "But it has a lot to do with health literacy."
Carmona urged everyone to help break down cultural barriers and the stigma that is fueling HIV infection rates in minority communities. "Take stock of your own work, your own expertise, your personal convictions, and decide what you can do to change these facts," he said. Carmona also urged Americans to protect themselves against HIV infection. "We are encouraging people to delay sexual activity," he said. "We are reminding those who are already in relationships of the importance of faithfulness and monogamy. And we are encouraging those who engage in high-risk behavior to use condoms consistently and correctly each and every time they have sex."