October 11, 2002 at 4:38 PM EST - Updated July 2 at 2:40 AM
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Buses in seven Ohio cities will be used as traveling billboards for a campaign to increase AIDS awareness among minorities.
The program will begin Saturday, when the buses will be displayed at a Statehouse rally. The vehicles will be wrapped with images of blacks, American Indians, Asians and Latinos and the slogan "Know the Facts. Get Tested."
The "Get on the Bus" program is the first phase of a $325,000 campaign which health officials describe as the first statewide effort to raise awareness about HIV among minorities. It is mostly federally funded through the Ohio Commission on Minority Health.
The ads cost about $6,500 each for the six-month campaign, said Joyce Calamese, assistant director of the Family Development Center at the Columbus Urban League, which is overseeing the grant.
"People have gotten passive because they don't hear about the deaths that we heard about 20 years ago, so people aren't taking it seriously and they aren't getting tested," Calamese said.
Health officials say fear of death, myths about the disease and secrets among minority men who don't admit to themselves or others that they are gay or bisexual are a few reasons for the rising number of HIV cases in minority communities.
"We have to try to make some kind of impact. Because if we don't get it together, we (blacks) are not going to be here," said Wynette Collins, the city Health Department's minority coordinator for sexually transmitted diseases.
Sue Crumpton, executive director of the Columbus AIDS Task Force, said putting the message on buses is a good idea.
"Catching people's attention this day and age is hard to do," she said. "Putting it on a bus puts it in front of you and hopefully triggers a change in behavior or makes someone want to go and get tested."
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)