Rise in Number of New HIV Cases in South Florida Led to Higher Statewide Numbers, Health Data Show
An "unprecedented" increase in the number of new HIV infections in South Florida is the main reason why the number of HIV cases in the state rose 21% last year, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reports. After several years of declining incidence, the number of newly reported HIV cases rose slightly for 2001 but "skyrocketed" last year, state Department of Health data show, according to the Sun-Sentinel. The data show that the number of HIV infections rose to 1,765 in Miami-Dade County; to 1,086 in Broward County; and to 519 in Palm Beach County. In addition, the number of AIDS cases rose 12% to 531 in Palm Beach County and 8.5% to 750 in Broward County. AIDS cases statewide rose by 1% last year. The increased incidence of the virus is the result of a "growing cavalier attitude toward unprotected sex," health officials said, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Naomi Parker, chair of the HIV Planning Council in Broward and head of the CPC Foundation, said, "It's not enough to go out and pass out pamphlets any more. It's not just, 'Hey, wear a condom.' We've got to find the people out there who are infected and who are continuing to infect people and get them off the street and into care." Tom Liberti, AIDS director at Florida's health department, said that South Florida's problem is more difficult to manage because incidence rates are rising in multiple communities, according to the Sun-Sentinel. He added that the increase in reported HIV infections could be the result of a "statewide push" of testing that prompted 294,000 people to be tested for the virus last year, a 10% increase compared with the previous year. The Sun-Sentinel reports that health officials said HIV incidence is growing fastest among young men who have sex with men who think new medicines have "brought AIDS under control" and among young, African-American adults. Advocates said that in areas with high incidence rates -- such as Miami Dade, which ranks second behind New York in cases of AIDS per 100,000 people -- more "tailor[ed] messages to ethnic communities" and "hard-to-reach groups" are needed (LaMendola, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 2/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.