Residents of Small Florida Town ‘In An Uproar’ Over Essence Article Detailing Its Efforts to Address HIV/AIDS
An article published in the February issue of Essence magazine detailing how HIV/AIDS has affected the lives of some citizens of Quincy, Fla., has some of the community's residents "in an uproar," the Tallahassee Democrat reports. According to the Democrat, some members of the community were upset that Essence, a magazine traditionally targeted at black women, chose to focus on Quincy when "there are many other [communities] where the disease is worse." When the article was written last summer, 130 of Quincy's 7,700 residents had HIV/AIDS and 90% of those infected were black, and most were black women. Quincy Mayor Derrick Elias said he was angered that the article did not portray his town in a more positive light. "How dare they do a story like this that says we sit around all the time and have sex with each other," he said. However, Nancy Gee, a representative of the Quincy-based AIDS advocacy group Investing in Our Youth Inc., said, "It's time for us to take our head out of the sand. The shame comes if we do nothing about [AIDS]." Representatives of the Florida Department of Health, which pitched the article idea to the magazine, said Quincy was chosen as an example of "how one small community is dealing with the disease." Quincy City Commissioner Keith Dowdell said, "The Essence magazine article was a blessing in disguise. We need to work hand in hand to get the problem solved" (Nelson, Tallahassee Democrat, 1/23).
Focus on 'Real Problem'
Quincy town leaders should drop their "public relations quibble" over the Essence article and focus on the "real problem" -- Quincy's "public health crisis," a Tallahassee Democrat editorial states. The Democrat says that health educators in rural towns such as Quincy face an "uphill battle" to overcome the lack of information and silence that "perpetuate the cycle of infection," as well as the social stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. The editorial states that "now that the story is out in the open," town leaders have a chance to "use it as a catalyst for change." The editorial concludes, "If it's a 'positive' story that angry residents want, this is their chance to create one and save lives in the process" (Tallahassee Democrat, 1/23).