Immigrants Face Health Crisis
By Michael D. Roberts
Central Brooklyn is the epicenter of the HIV and AIDS crisis in
New York City.
The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in the Caribbean-American community
in Brooklyn is 16 times the national average, akin to those in sub-Saharan
Africa. And approximately 50,000 children have been orphaned in
the borough as a result of HIV/AIDS, according to Caribbean
Womens Health Association.
The situation is especially grave for many immigrant groups because
health care is too expensive or unavailable, education about the
disease and treatment is scarce, and many are wary of the government
"You have a situation where the undocumented are scared to access
public health facilities because they fear deportation and the sharing
of immigration status information with the Immigration Naturalization
Service," said Dr. Marco Mason of the organization.
Combined with other health problems like high rates of infant mortality
especially in immigrant groups from Haiti, Panama, Grenada, and
Ghana, and the highest prostrate cancer rates in the state, Brooklyn
is struggling to treat the health needs of its residents.
Community leaders and activists say that budget cuts and years
of inattention have left the borough with only short-term solutions.
"We have written, we have begged, we have pleaded with the powers
that be," said Mason. "We have warned that this health
crisis will not remain for long within the confines of this special
population and that when it hits the general population the situation
will be much more difficult to address, arrest, and contain."
In the last year, City Councilmember Yvette
Clarke has organized a task force to highlight the health crisis
in Central Brooklyn. Clarke is also working with state agencies
to set up additional health clinics in the area and hopes to youth
programs to better education families.
Outreach efforts, according to Dr. Lorna Scott McBarnette, former
Deputy Health Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of Community
Health Care Association of New York State, must include access to
health care, more education, and better scientific research.
"To combat these problems will require an organized community
effort," said McBarnette. "There is no one size fits all
solution in this crisis."
Michael D. Roberts is the editor of The
New York Carib News.
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