(Copyright @ The Hartford Courant 2001)

Sounds of salsa music floated above South Green/Barnard Park Thursday at the Hispanic Health Council’s 10th annual Health Fair for Children and Families.
“It’s a celebration,” said Nelson Cortez, 26. “We get to cherish what is really important: health, life and knowledge. And we get a bit of music while we’re at it.”
Cortez was one of many people dancing, listening or just looking around in the park during the fair, despite the extremely hot weather. Organizers were distributing free bottles of water to help combat the heat.

The Hispanic Health Council, which dedicates itself to improvingthe health and social well-being of Puerto Ricans, Latinos and other under-served communities in Connecticut, holds the fair each year to make residents aware of the many health-related programs available.

At the fair, agencies provided information on their services and programs. Free screenings were done for high blood pressure andlead poisoning as well as HIV/AIDS tests.Information was offered about many health issues, including breast cancer, proper nutrition and safe sex. Many booths offered free condoms, some in boxes resembling Chinese food containers.
“The main theme seems to be condoms,” said Kathy Maldonado, 23.
“I’ve got enough to last me till the year 2010,” she said.
Pan Cunningham was participating for the second year, this time with the city Health Department’s HIV program. Last year, he represented the Hartford Gay and Lesbian Health Collective.
“We are here to counsel people about HIV,” said Cunningham. If a person decides to get tested, he said, everything is kept strictly confidential. Taking advantage of the services is completely voluntary, he said.
In addition to the information on serious health issues, there was plenty of entertainment and fun, including free ice cream for kids. There were also raffles held. Groups sponsoring summer programs also had booths, which attracted many children.
“I come here every year,” said Maldonado, who lives in the Frog Hollow neighborhood. “It’s a very interesting experience. Here you can find any program having to do with health,” she said.
“I wonder if they have one about how to prevent heat stroke?”
For information on the Hispanic Health Council, call Doris E. Ayala, Coordinator of Community Health Education, at 860-527-0656.