January 12, 2001

Local TV news is notorious for using focus groups to do everything from testing promotional campaigns to selecting the most popular anchor person, but in a story about AIDS in the Hispanic community, Spanish-language Univision 41 in New York puts the focus group on the side of the angels.

For "El Silencio Nos Esta Matando" (Our Silence Is Killing Us), which will be seen Friday night, February 9, on the 11 pm edition of "Noticias 41," weekend anchor Antonio Martinez and executive producer Norma Morato assembled focus groups of Spanish-speaking AIDS patients to talk about the cultural phenomena that put Hispanics at greater risk of contracting AIDS than members of the Anglo community here. Two focus groups -- one of men and the other of women, were assembled and videotaped for broadcast.

Hispanics as a group are more reticent than others when it comes to talking about sex and sexually transmitted diseases, the Noticias 41 report says. This is especially true of older people and recent immigrants -- and the latter tend as a result to be most at risk. Interviewing focus groups of AIDS sufferers is a non-traditional way of concentrating viewers' attention on the problem. "We have to think outside the box," Martinez says.

For example, some Latino men believe that condom use diminishes their masculinity, but they will not discuss it on camera. By listening to a group of people who are infected with HIV, they will learn that the disease is far more damaging to their masculinity than a small piece of latex.

"Nosotoros somos muy machos, y por eso no queremos usar condones" (We are too macho, and that's why we do not like to use condoms), says one HIV-positive man who participated in a "Noticias 41" focus group.

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