HIV Rate ‘Far From Manageable’ in Rural Florida
AIDS is "far from manageable" in rural Jackson County, Fla., where 4% of HIV tests return a positive result, twice the state average, the St. Petersburg Times reports. Worse, more than 50% of the county residents who tested HIV positive last year had AIDS as a result of delaying the diagnosis "out of fear or ignorance, or both." The St. Petersburg Times reports that HIV-positive individuals in Jackson County "aren't the gay white men whom the disease struck first in bigger cities, but black grandfathers, white farmers' wives, men just released from prisons, Mexican migrant workers and junior college students from other Panhandle towns." While the older people "are often too afraid or ashamed to get help," the younger ones, among whom the disease is spreading fastest, "aren't scared enough." A $10 million state grant for disease prevention and treatment among racial minorities sponsored last year by former state Rep. Rudy Bradley (R) has funded programs like the Bay AIDS Services and Information Coalition, a group that often serves as "the only resource for people with HIV and AIDS in six central Panhandle counties," including Jackson. BASIC tries to reach residents who might not otherwise learn about AIDS, such as those in many black church congregations where "the language of AIDS -- homosexuality, bisexuality, drug use -- remains off-limits." In Florida, one in 50 African Americans has HIV, compared to one in 127 Hispanics and one in 286 whites. Although African Americans account for only 13% of the state's population, they represented 56% of the new AIDS cases reported last year. Further, women accounted for 22% of the total AIDS cases in Florida last year, with black women making up nearly three-quarters of that group. Last month, the state "logged a sobering milestone," as it reached its 100,000th reported case of HIV or AIDS. Despite three years of a declining rate, the number of AIDS deaths rose in 1999 (Oppel, St. Petersburg Times, 2/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.