Miami to Host Community AIDS Summit to Develop Disease-Fighting Strategy
"Hundreds" of AIDS activists will "descen[d] on" Miami this Saturday for a community-based AIDS summit called by Rep. Carrie Meek (D-Fla.) and other leaders in an effort to "sto[p] the virus before it can steal more lives," the Miami Herald reports. Meek said, "We knew we couldn't legislate this disease away. ... We want to put together a strategy to make sure we're doing all we can to attack this terrible, terrible disease that has killed so many of our people in South Florida." Miami-Dade HIV/AIDS Partnership Chair John Muhammad calls the area's situation a "crisis," as the HIV infection rate in the inner cities of Miami-Dade and Broward counties are among the highest in the United States. In the past two decades, "the course of the epidemic has shifted significantly, with the onslaught borne increasingly -- in Florida and nationally -- by blacks," state AIDS epidemiologist Spencer Lieb said. African Americans represent only 15% of the state's population, but make up 58% of the HIV infections reported since July 1997. In Broward County, African Americans account for 63% of new infections, more than twice the rate among white non-Hispanics, and in Miami-Dade they account for 56% of infections, with Hispanics making up 30%. In response, the Florida Department of Health has increased outreach efforts to black communities through media education campaigns and the Internet, and the increased involvement of black churches has been a "pivotal component" of these efforts. But Statewide Minority HIV/AIDS Coordinator for the Department of Health Ronald Henderson said, "If we as a community don't face the fact that HIV/AIDS is killing our children, our families, our neighbors, our entire community, there's nothing the health department or any government agency can do" (Morris/Smith, Miami Herald, 7/26). For more information on HIV/AIDS in Florida, visit State Health Facts Online.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.