South Florida Cities Lead Country in Number of New AIDS Cases Among Young Adults
Three South Florida cities ranked in the top five among metropolitan areas with the highest number of new AIDS cases among people aged 18 to 29 in 2000, according to the "latest data" from the CDC, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach ranked first, third and fourth, respectively. In addition, while new AIDS case rates declined in Miami and Fort Lauderdale in 2000, the rates in West Palm Beach increased. The stigma associated with HIV/AIDS -- that it is a "gay disease" or that HIV-positive people used intravenous drugs or had sex with "dirty" people -- impede HIV prevention efforts in South Florida and have "sent HIV rates soaring," especially among blacks, activists said. "We live in denial," Gabrielle Tunnage who works with REACH 2010, a national CDC-funded initiative to cut HIV infection rates among minorities by the year 2010, said, citing a lack of HIV education and misinformation as particular problems.
'Signs of Hope'
CDC statistics from 2000 indicate that for every 100 white HIV-positive Floridians, there are 572 blacks and 225 Hispanics infected with HIV. In addition, according to the state Department of Health, black women represented 75% of Florida's reported HIV and AIDS cases in 2000. Although blacks, who make up 21% of the Broward County population, represent 51% of reported AIDS cases in the county, "signs of hope" do exist there, Ula Zucker, who also works for REACH 2010, said. A reported 60% of unmarried men ages 18 to 29 who were surveyed last year reported using condoms, as did 50% of unmarried women in the same age group. "The prevention message is taking hold, and people are taking action," Zucker said, adding, however, that some are not taking preventive measures and are infecting others. REACH 2010, funded through 2004, focuses primarily on Broward County's 18- to 39-year-old minority population, the group that is most at risk for contracting HIV. Targeting 12 zip codes in the county, REACH 2010 staffers "mingle" with people while distributing condoms and "practical" AIDS information. REACH 2010 is joined by Hispanic Unity, the Urban League, Minority Development and Empowerment and the Florida Department of Health in its efforts to "scale a dangerous wall of silence" and prevent HIV infection among Florida's minorities. "[B]eing uneducated does hurt," Tunnage said, adding that the "only cure for AIDS is death" (Lewis, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 2/6).