Palm Beach Post Examines HIV/AIDS in Florida
The Palm Beach Post on Sunday examined HIV/AIDS in Florida, which has the third-highest caseload nationwide. More than 105,000 people have been diagnosed with AIDS since the start of the epidemic in the U.S., and the rate of HIV/AIDS among children in the state is second only to New York, according to the Post. In addition, about 80% of pediatric HIV/AIDS cases occur among black children. Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties have recorded the highest HIV/AIDS rates among black residents statewide, the Post reports. Black residents, who make up 15% of Palm Beach county's population, comprise 65% of people living with HIV/AIDS in the area.
Leaders in Florida have not responded to HIV/AIDS as a sexually transmitted epidemic, Palm Beach County Health Director Jean Malecki said, adding that sex education programs in the state do not provide students with information about how to prevent HIV. In addition, the federal government has not supported local prevention efforts in Florida and during the past two years has reduced HIV/AIDS funding for Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, according to Malecki.
Although religious leaders in the state have not spoken out about the disease, an exception has been Bishop Lewis White, who has run HIV/AIDS education, prevention and care programs in the county, Malecki said. "Other pastors have said I'm promoting sex when I hand out condoms," White said, adding, "I'm sorry to tell them that is not true. People are having sex with or without condoms. I'm promoting life. I'm here for a purpose: not to judge you on who you have sex with, but to judge how careful you are when you have sex." According to White, poverty, unemployment and homelessness are contributing to the spread of HIV in communities where conditions have deteriorated during the past few years (Barton, Palm Beach Post, 11/25).
The recent series of HIV/AIDS articles in the Post was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Additional resources are available online.