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Breaking Down Barriers: A Woman's Path to Reducing HIV Stigma in the Arab American Community
Date:2/20/2008

DEARBORN, Mich., Feb. 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- HIV/AIDS is still a taboo topic among many Arab Americans, but one determined woman is working hard to change this. For Dinah Ayna, talking about HIV and addressing the stigma among the women in her community is a challenging, yet a rewarding part of her daily routine.

According to the Arab American Institute, there are 3.5 million Arab Americans in the U.S. One-third live in Michigan, with most located in Dearborn, Michigan. As the Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator at the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) in Dearborn, Dinah does what no one else dares to do in the Arab American Community: talk to women about HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

Dinah works at ACCESS' Community Health and Research Center that promotes physical, mental, and social health of the Arab American community using a holistic, multicultural approach. At the Center, Arab Americans, Arab immigrants, and refugees from 22 countries receive state-of-the-art services that range from physicals and immunizations to education about cancer, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS.

"We need to talk about HIV in a way that doesn't conflict with people's religious beliefs and culture," says Dinah. She finds that women in her community relate to her and the cultural context in which she frames the issues. As an Arab American woman - her parents are from Palestine - her work fills a cultural gap for appropriate methods that can help Arab American women discuss HIV.

In the Arab American community, sharaf or honor is an important social aspect within families where an individual's actions can bring shame to the entire family. Many women live in fear of painful repercussions within their families and communities, and would rather live in ignorance than know they have HIV.

Dinah spends most of her day talking to Arab American women, ages 16 to 50 that come to the Center for couns
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SOURCE Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services
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