Rep. Carrie Meek Leads Call for Summit to Address HIV/AIDS in Miami-Dade County
Concerned about the "unabated" rates of HIV infection in the Miami area, local health officials, lawmakers and civic and religious leaders have called an "emergency summit" to develop a strategy to fight the virus in Miami-Dade County, the Miami Herald reports. Led by Rep. Carrie Meek (D-Fla.), the summit organizers hope to "rally all segments of the community -- from government to churches to schools -- and to draft a common plan to halt the spread of the disease." The summit will especially focus on reducing the spread of HIV among minorities, who constitute the majority of Miami's HIV/AIDS cases. Statistics from the Miami-Dade County Health Department show that blacks and Hispanics make up 86% of the county's HIV cases, while non-Hispanic whites account for the remaining 14%. In a statement, Meek said that the South Florida area alone has more HIV/AIDS cases than the total number of cases in each of 44 states, and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) added that studies have "place[d] South Florida at the top of urban areas in the United States with high HIV/AIDS infection rates." Summit organizers said that they must increase prevention efforts in schools, jails, parts of "deep South Dade" and low-income communities. State Rep. Frederica Wilson (D) added that the strategy must include "mak[ing] AIDS and HIV part of the collective consciousness" by establishing the topic in everyday conversation. "In the beauty parlors and barber shops, everywhere we go, we need to talk about AIDS," she said. Rev. George McRae, pastor of Mt. Tabor Baptist Church and founder of Minorities Overcoming the Virus through Education, Responsibility and Spirituality (MOVERS), added that clergy need to encourage conversation on the issue as well. He said that congregations "need to provide a more welcome -- and proactive approach -- to dealing with their flocks." The summit will take place on July 28 (Figueras, Miami Herald, 7/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.