Public Health Corner

June: 2014

National Immunization Awareness month
Hepatitis Awareness Month



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Aids : History of our work

The Center for Community Health, Education & Research, Inc. (CCHER) is a non-profit community based organization. The agency was established in 1987 as the "Haitian Community AIDS Outreach Project", originally providing AIDS case management and HIV education to the growing Haitian community in Boston and the surrounding areas.

While many of our consumers live in the Mattapan and North Dorchester neighborhoods of Boston, others live in surrounding communities including Brockton, Cambridge, Somerville and Everett. Besides its primary mission, the Center for Community Health, Education & Research, Inc. (CCHER) also has a public health interest in looking at health issues affecting other ethnic groups.

The agency was established in the mid-1980's during a time when there was a growing AIDS crisis within the local Haitian community: not only were there increasing numbers of new HIV infections among Haitians here in Boston, but tremendous public hysteria, stigma, and blame was directed towards Haitian immigrants in the U.S. at that time. In the early 1980's, Haitians were the only ethnic group ever singled out within the U.S. as an at-risk group for AIDS. Haitians were seen as "AIDS carriers"; many lost jobs and housing due to the fear and discrimination directed toward this immigrant group. In 1988, Haitians in the U.S. were banned from donating blood, simply because of their ethnic origin, which further stigmatized the community in relation to the AIDS crisis.

A well-mobilized Haitian community here in the Boston area responded to this AIDS crisis. Several Haitian service organizations were established to provide local residents with not only HIV/AIDS education and services, but services to meet other health, educational, and social needs. The "Haitian Community AIDS Outreach Project", which became known as 'HAP' was established with just an executive director and a single social worker to begin reaching out to the Haitian community.

In 1994, after tremendous growth, the agency was renamed Center for Community Health, Education & Research, Inc. and expanded its programming and services to other health issues as well as to other ethnic communities in the Boston area. CCHER's staff has grown to 25 professionals. While remaining primarily an AIDS service organization for Boston's Haitian community, CCHER's other initiatives have now included training, research and evaluation, housing services for non-Haitian HIV consumers, and educational programming and services related to substance abuse.

CCHER's goal as a community-based public health organization is to advocate on behalf of the community for public health policies that will, over time, have long term benefits for the community, most particularly residents in the greater Dorchester area. We at CCHER believe that residents of a community can play an important role in organizing and advocating for efficient and affordable health care and health related services for their community.

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