Florida Advocacy Group Launches HIV/AIDS Education, Testing Campaign Aimed at MSMCOMPASS, a Palm Beach County, Fla.-based gay and lesbian advocacy group, last week launched an HIV/AIDS education and testing campaign aimed at men who have sex with men, the Palm Beach Post reports. The campaign encourages MSM to sign cards pledging to promote HIV testing to 10 other people.
According to the Post, the "impetus" for the campaign was a report released last year that documented the impact of HIV on MSM in the state (Barton, Palm Beach Post, 3/30). The report, conducted by the state Department of Health, found that an estimated one in 22 MSM in Florida is HIV-positive. The report also found one in 12 black MSM in the state is HIV-positive, compared with one in 18 Hispanic MSM and one in 29 white MSM. Some advocates argued that the state might be underestimating the incidence of HIV/AIDS among MSM, adding that many MSM do not practice safer sex for a number of reasons (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/15/07).
Chris Lacharite, a prevention coordinator at COMPASS, said that because the data are based on an estimate more likely to be true in dense urban areas, such as Miami and Fort Lauderdale, the estimates do not represent the reality in Palm Beach County, the Post reports. He added that the number of HIV-positive MSM probably represents a higher percentage of the total number of HIV-positive people in the county. In addition, it is possible that as many as one in seven black MSM in Palm Beach County is HIV-positive, Lacharite said.
Lorenzo Robertson, the county regional AIDS coordinator, said many of these men are not getting tested. "Stigma and denial still play a large part in why black and Hispanic [MSM] are disproportionately affected by the epidemic," Robertson said, adding that the facts about HIV/AIDS continue to be widely misunderstood. Rob Scott, an early intervention specialist at the county health department, said that if people who are living with the disease do not think they are exposed to the virus, routine testing is all the more important (Palm Beach Post, 3/30). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.